The Saga of the First Ever National Gaming Day


STORY The Saga of the First Ever National Gaming Day

DAWN. November 14th, 2008. Today is the first-ever ALA National Gaming Day @ Your Library and the birthday of gtsystem. As the sun rises over Ann Arbor, Eli sleeps fitfully, repeatedly hitting the iPhone snooze as his dreams fill with colliding friend codes. Eric Klooster, also known as ejk, burns eggs for his kids and as he frets about a particular unsigned integer. In Chicago, Jenny Levine refreshes her feed reader repeatedly watching for details or coverage. In Syracuse, Scott Nicholson stares down a Pictureka board, certain that it contains something you would take to the beach. The day has begun, and before it ends, many things will have happened that have never happened before. This is true of every day to a certain extent, but today, these things are happening at Libraries, and we -- ALA, AADL, and all the gtsystem partners -- have made it happen.

Over 50 different events were scheduled in libraries around the country as part of gtsystem's first full-scale event day. We offered Rock Band and DDR high-score contests, and planned a 32-library National Smash Bros. Brawl Bracket using online play. We collected and traded friend codes on the gtsystem wiki organized a bracket, and set up chat rooms to allow for bracket communication.

As the 3PM start of the event drew near, our own roomful of kids played through their qualifiers, and I was switching between all 4 chat rooms, resolving friend code typos, answering last-minute questions, talking with IT staff at other libraries trying to resolve the dreaded 864** errors that indicate firewall trouble. However, only a few libraries were unable to connect and the bracket was poised with 29 libraries ready to go as the start of the event drew near.

Then it became clear that what we had here was a failure to communicate. Our chat program, which had worked beautifully in our testing over the summer and early fall, was simply not scaling. We had made some simple mistakes in configuring it that could not be fixed in-theatre, and the 5+ minute lag to post a comment to the chat basically dropped a bomb on our loose network of libraries. I hastily set up a Meebo room to attempt to recover, but I forgot something very important: Meebo sucks too. On top of that, I had thrown up the embedded meebo widget on a page on for ease of getting it up quickly, and shortly after sending out an emergency email with the path to the last-ditch meebo chat on an page, went down, completely by coincidence. In addition, my network administrator just happened to be butchering his pigs that day. We lost a lot of good libraries in that quagmire of a chatroom, and the few survivors were scattered and bedraggled. Things were not going our way, and it looked like our grand experiment would end in fiasco and fall far short of the crowning of a champion. I despaired that such a simple problem could have derailed a great idea. I sent another email that basically said, "Oh well, play whoever."

BUT THEN, just as it looked like all hope was lost, evidence of civilization re-establishing itself among the survivors emerged. Like a scruffy Kevin Costner on a donkey, Meebo brought us word that some brackets had successfully escaped to other chatrooms and had continued their round according to the established rules, and had selected which of their number were going to advance, and were wondering who their next opponents would be? Spring into action! We cobbled together what was left of our bracket and sent two champions on to face the champions from the successful and organized NY/NJ bracket, while the western bracket had time to regroup, reform, and settle their own standings.

We arrived at a perfectly respectable 4-library eastern semifinal with CRANBURY and CMCL from New Jersey, and midwest rivals AADL and EVPL squaring off to send two libraries to the finals to play against the triumphant JPL of Idaho and the FPL of Arizona, who had defeated the scrappy MADRID library of Iowa in a last-minute heartbreaking tiebreaker that involved guessing a number.

THUS, the stage was set for the first-ever (albeit compromised) gtsystem National Brawl Championship Match, featuring the Evansville Vanderburgh Public Library of Indiana, the Ann Arbor District Library of Michigan, Jerome Public Library of Idaho, and the East Flagstaff Community Library of Arizona. It was an intense set of matches, but when the dust cleared, the combined skill of the EVPL crew had emerged victorious, defeating AADL and becoming the first-ever gtsystem Brawl Champion, while FPL finished third, and JPL took fourth.

Meanwhile, the gtsystem tournament management web service was plugging along beautifully, collecting over 400 scores from libraries all over the country and producing systemwide Rock Band and Dance Dance Revolution leaderboards for the National High Score contests. After some careful examination and certification of the data, the band ODIFEROUS defeated their rivals at the Newman Regional Library in Illinois to claim victory in the Rock Band high score contest with a score of 1,298,729. Here in Ann Arbor, where the DDR crowd is fierce, our own KIANA recorded the highest score of the day, racking up 334 perfects on SO DEEP to win the DDR High Score Contest.

What became clear by the end of this tumultuous day is that this idea can work, and boy does it have potential. The addition of the national scope really makes for an exciting event for all involved, and the opportunity is there for this to become something truly big, thrilling library patrons, changing their expectations, and making the library a central place in their lives! Huge Thanks to everyone who helped to make this possible; Jenny Levine and ALA, EJK and the rest of my staff here at AADL, and most importantly, all of you, our gtsystem partners, who stuck with the idea through a very challenging day and helped us all to realize just how big this could be.

Please take a minute if you can and add a comment to this post about how the events went at your library. You can use your gtsystem account to log in, or make a new one; that way we can have a lot of stories here in one place. Also watch this new blog ( for updates to gtsystem, including the announcement of our 2009 schedule, including test windows and practice tournaments leading up to an even bigger (and hopefully glitch-free) National Gaming Day ][ on November 14, 2009!

Thanks again to all of you, and let's keep kicking tush together!

National Gaming Day

Hi, Like everyone else, we had a blast! Thank you so much Eli and crew for putting this together. It was not until 3:00 a.m. EST when I suddenly awoke and all became crystal clear on how the Brawl actually worked. Eli quickly put us in a bracket (the only CT library represented) at the eleventh hour. Although we were quickly eliminated our teens are fueled for next year! DDR was alot of fun and everyone loved playing Pictureka. It is now my Christmas gift of choice for family and friends.

One of the best things that came out of this was that I learned a great deal. I feel much more confident now in running a local tournament and plan on drawing on this experience to involve our main library and other 3 branches. The kids are psyched to play other kids city-wide.

We also had other board games available all day. The big fave....Clue!

So here's to next year. We are already pumped!

Thanks again.

Submitted by Nancy Sweeney, Branch Librarian Bridgeport Public Library, Newfield Branch

NGD Again - Thanks for GTS

I forgot to say thanks for letting us use GTS. I would not have tackled the event if you hadn't made it easy to set up the tournament with GTS! I know nothing about setting up brackets and GTS worked great. We did three qualifying events and then for the final, we had each of the top two bands submit a song title. We put the titles in a hat and drew out one song and both bands had to play the same song. I wonder how others did their finals?

Renee Henry
Newman Regional Library System

National Gaming Day at Newman Regional Library District

This was a quickly organized event for us as I didn't know about it until Pictureka arrived in the mail about 10 days before the event. Thanks to a local dad and the school librarian we were able to get the equipment. We advertised locally, because we are a small library (serve 1371)and we don't have much space. We had 12 teens participate in Rock Band - 3 Bands. Two of the bands had played together before, and the third was a pick-up group of the extra kids. We used a projector and large screen which made it different than their regular experience. We are blown away that our two bands were at the top of the leaderboard! The kids had a great time and we are planning to do some kind of video game tournament again at Christmas. I was glad for the advice on keeping the prizes small - they didn't seem to be real important. The kids seem to care more about winning than the prizes. Pictureka was not played with much, unless I instigated it. We didn't have much walk-in traffic that Saturday, and only one person came to play it. We're in for NGD next year - maybe we will advertise it as "come play lots of games" rather than these two specific ones...

Renee Henry,Librarian
Newman Regional Library District

National Gaming Day in Longview, WA

We had over 72 kids & families participating, with Pictureka, and other board games outranking the Rock Band and Guitar Hero in popularity. GameCrazy, who was our co-sponsor, was unable to participate at the last minute, so there went our Wii & DDR.
The kids were not interested in the Internet games we had reserved, and only modest interest in WoW. Maybe everyone plays electronic games at home so much that even with projection, the board games had more of a novelty factor? Anyway, we're looking forward to National Gaming Day II next year!
Jan E.V.W. Hanson
Youth Services Librarian
Longview Public Library


We had four of our meeting rooms reserved all day for National Gaming Day. We had a Wii, PS2, PS3, and XBox 360 in use all day. I also set up 15 board games around the library and we had three different role playing games going on as well. Our NGD ran from 9am-5pm and we were pushing teens out the door at the end. Everyone had a great time and want to do something every month. I will probably start doing something on a smaller scale once every 8 weeks or so. We particapated in the SSBB tournament, but the lag was really bad and we lost all four games in the first round. We had a lot of fun though. Altogether we had over 60 teens playing games on Saturday. Looking forward to Nov. 14, 2009!
McAlester Public Library
McAlester, Oklahoma

National Gaming Day

Thank you very much to Eli for all of his work. Our day was successful too. We participated in the Brawl Tournament. We lost in the 2nd round but had great fun trying to get it all to work. The lag was bad here and we got dropped from a game once, but the hectic situation just made us all laugh more. We also ran a DDR Hottest Dance Party event. The Pictureka didn't go well for us, mostly because I was the only one running everything and spent so much time trying to deal with Brawl details and chats that I couldn't walk around and really get people going on it. We did have some people playing magic and some who signed up to join a new Magic League at the library. Next year I will have to talk someone into helping me. Looking forward to next year; it should be great fun!

NGD Rocks!

What a wild ride! JPL only had 10 days to prepare. My fault, because I was ignoring my libidaho listserve and had no idea it was coming. I'm blogging my 10 day experience in preparing and hosting NGD @ Jerome Public Library at I have 3 posts left to write in the countdown, which will culminate with our experience of NGD on THE day.

For those with no time to read, the short story is...

119 people signed the poster confirming that they played Pictureka! (I think at least 20 more played without signing)

We had somewhere between 200 and 300 in our not-too-big library on NGD

The library closed for buisness at 3:00, the program went until 5:00. At 4:50, we told 59 people that they were playing their last game of the day.

JPL made it to the Super Smash Bros. finals!

Thanks so much to everyone who dreamed it and made it happen. We're IN for next year!

Tina Cherry
Jerome Public Library

Keep em Coming!

We had over 55 participants for our National Gaming Day. Magic proved to be hugely popular! Teens who had never played it before got a quick lesson and spent the majority of their time at the Magic table.

Super Smash Bros Brawl was its usual popular self (I projected it onto a big screen in order to add an extra little oomph), and I simultaneously ran Guitar Hero and Rock Band. Talk about sensory overload!

My only regret was not having schooled myself on the particulars of GTSYSTEM beforehand, so we could post our scores. Next time!

All the best,

Matt Layne
Young Adult Services
Emmet O'Neal Library
Mountain Brook, AL

Great experience

I just wanted to say what a great experience I and my patrons had in participating in the national tournament and holding our in house tournament as well. They were all asking when we could do something like this again... and even better many who did not know me were asking me my name and what I did at the library!!! It was really something to have a really hard to reach age group at the library and lovin it!! Thanks to Eli and all those involved in helping this happen.. Can't wait until the next time!!!

Doug Baldwin
Cranbury Public Library