- Video game consoles can be expensive, but an initial hardware investment can create many programs down the line for a library. Alternatively, put out a call asking patrons or staff to bring their hardware - there are many people in the community who want to see it happen, and will help in any way they can!
Consoles are constantly changing as "generations" pass every six or so years and a new wave supersedes the old. Interestingly, the two frontrunners this generation, the Playstation 4 and Xbox One, are technologically very similar to one another (and to high-end PCs), making the differences come down primarily to the games offered for each (and many games come out for both). The currently active consoles on the market are:
- Sony Playstation 4 - Has a strong selection of independently made games, and started as the technological powerhouse for this generation. A new revision, the Playstation 4 Pro, improves performance even more and should be the preferred model to get, although with a new generation of hardware anticipated in 2020, it might be best to hold off. The Playstation 4 also has VR (Virtual Reality) capability with its Playstation VR headset.
- Microsoft Xbox One - After a shaky launch and rolling back its plans for the Kinect camera peripheral, the Xbox One has made a comeback with a new model, the Xbox One X, the most powerful console on the market. Microsoft has been buying publishers to improve its game offerings, and is bringing more and more to the PC as well as the Xbox. Again, a new generation of hardware is likely in 2020.
- Nintendo Switch - A hybrid of console and handheld, the Switch has been a very popular console this generation, with a sizeable library of great games. Its relatively low cost, focus on in-person multiplayer, and approachability make it a great selection for library programs.
Pokemon: While Pokemon games are made primarily for handheld systems (currently the Nintendo Switch), creating a venue where kids can battle and trade makes for a solid (and cheap) program. Pokemon is a surprisingly deep game that requires kids to think strategically to succeed.
Minecraft: Versions of Minecraft are available on all major systems right now, and making your own world is still as fun as ever.
Mario Kart 8 Deluxe (Switch) - An easy game for anyone to get into, Mario Kart lends itself well to multiplayer gaming in the same room.
Super Mario Party (Switch) - The latest in the Mario Party series, this is effectively a digtal board game interspersed with mini-games, but with only four players able to participate at once, mulitiple systems may be needed.
Overcooked/Overcooked 2 - A frenetic game where four chefs cooperate to make dishes (though cooperation can be very, very difficult). Available for all major consoles.
Fortnite - The most popular game in the world. Fortnite is a cartoony shooter in the "battle royale" style (last person standing of 100 wins). It is free to play and available on every major system, as well as phones.
Rocket League - Also available on all major platforms, this online "car soccer" game is easy to pick up and play.
Overwatch - Another cross-platform shooter on PS4 and Xbox (as well as PC), Overwatch has a major cult following due to its well-realized characters and great balance.
NBA/Madden: Teens, especially boys, will refer to “2K” and “Madden” like they’re a way of life.
Naruto Ninja Storm - A fighting game featuring the ever-expanding roster and storyline from the Naruto series.
Dragon Ball FighterZ - Like the above, a very popular and well-received fighting game based on the Dragon Ball Z series.
Tekken 7 - A more realistic 3D fighting game for Playstation 4, this makes another great, fast-paced choice for tournaments.
Halo: The Master Chief Collection - A collection of almost all Halo games for Xbox One, with multiplayer options available for each. A great value for libraries interested in doing shooter tournaments.
- Tetris 99 (Switch) or The Tetris Effect (Playstation 4) - The most recent versions of Tetris each have their own gimmick, but either is a good pick. Tetris 99 has online multiplayer against 98 other people, with the last person standing the winner. The Tetris Effect, meanwhile, brings Tetris into virtual reality, with amazing results.
- Grand Theft Auto V (Playstation 4, PC, Xbox One): Grand Theft Auto Online is very, very popular, though political considerations may make it problematic for some libraries.
- Super Smash Bros. Ultimate (Switch): A ridiculously popular tournament game with extremely broad appeal. With a staggering array of fighters from multiple franchises, a wide variety of customization options, and a built-in tournament mode, this game is a reliable choice for a library program.
- The Cover Project - Encourage patrons to design their own new cover art to their favorite games. They can also upload it to the Cover Project website and share it!
- Encourage patrons to catalog their game collection using the Backloggery site
- Tournaments need brackets, and they can be a pain to make. There is a Tournament Bracket Generator available for free online.
- If multiple consoles are available, it cuts down on the wait for other players.
- Have plenty of controller batteries on hand!
- Gift cards make great prizes for tournaments - you don't even have to give that much!
- Free play sessions usually basically run themselves - just ensure that the players switch after each round so everyone gets a turn.
- Game design for consoles requires a development kit from the console manufacturer - Sony, Microsoft or Nintendo. While possible, development for PC and mobile platforms tends to be significantly easier.
Books and Links
- Metacritic - Metacritic aggregates reviews for games as well as for movies, music and TV, and it's a good way to get a feel for a game's quality.
- GameFAQs - The main site out there for FAQs, tips, cheats, and discussion regarding video games.
- Giant Bombcast - The foremost gaming podcast right now.
- www.replacementdocs.com - Replacement manuals available for download
- www.esrb.org - The website of the ESRB (Entertainment Software Rating Board) where you can determine what a game's maturity rating is, as well as what sort of objectionable content it may contain.
- Hardcore Gaming 101 has a great series of books for enthusiasts on their site.
- Boss Fight Books has a series of ebooks on different titles that are great for anyone who wants to read more about some of their favorites.
- Console Wars: Sega, Nintendo, and the Battle that Defined a Generation / Blake J. Harris, Fred Berman, et. al.
- Blood, Sweat and Pixels: The Triumphant, Turbulent Stories Behind How Video Games are Made / Jason Schreier
- The Ultimate History of Video Games: From Pong to Pokemon - The Story Behind the Craze That Touched Our Lives and Changed the World / Steven L. Kent