Marvelous Meta-Horror for Halloween Season

Horror is at its scariest when it puts you into the perspective of its terrified victims, but if you’ve read or watched widely in the genre, it can be harder to feel those vicarious thrills, especially when you’re busy yelling at the characters to stop being so stupid. Enter meta-horror: where your extra knowledge of the genre is part of the fun. In meta-horror, the characters may realize that events are happening like in a horror movie; or the story may break the fourth wall and deconstruct horror tropes to do something unfamiliar. It may be as simple as including “wink-wink” references that a horror fiend may be delighted to recognize. Either way, these meta-horror books, movies, and games can be scary, clever, or funny, or all three. You can recommend these titles to your high school teen horror buffs who are looking to put their horror knowledge to good use.


Alone, by Cyn Balog (Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers 2019 nominee)

Seda’s mother inherits a crumbling mansion that was once a murder mystery hotel. Her mother is supposed to renovate and sell it, but she seems more interested in keeping it in the family. Seda likes all of the secret passages and macabre decorations at first, but it turns oppressive when a blizzard strands a group of teenagers at the house. To keep their new guests entertained, her mother decides to host a murder mystery like in the old days.

Continue reading Marvelous Meta-Horror for Halloween Season

Choose Your Own Adventure: Living the Story through Video Games

From the moment that Zork in the 1970s opened with “You are standing in an open field west of a white house, with a boarded front door,” interactive fiction games have continued to evolve, and not just because of the inclusion of increasingly more sophisticated graphics. Story-driven experiences are still at the heart of many of today’s best video games, with as many different styles of gameplay as there are gamers.

The following video games are particularly suited to teens story-wise, though content ratings list most of these games as M for Mature, which are more appropriate for older teens. Consider these if you’re updating and adding to your circulating video game collection, and keep them in mind when talking with teens as “outside the box (or book, in this case)” recommendations.

Continue reading Choose Your Own Adventure: Living the Story through Video Games

All the Players are Belong to Us: Multiplayer Games in Libraries

A lot of gaming has become about community. Many games are built to be an experience. The boom of rhythm games, family gaming on the Wii, and the Kinect, all facilitate a multi-player experience. Really, some of my best experiences are hanging out at the arcade, with my quarter on the glass, waiting for my turn on Mortal Kombat.


In teen spaces, multiplayer gaming is vital. Why have a single player game when you can have four … or eight … or sixteen? It is most cost-effective and efficient to offer games where the greatest number of players can get in on the action.

While many multiplayer games are competitive, thus creating winners and losers (and sometimes sore feelings), they still tend to create a great sense of community. Lesser players will team up. Good sports will congratulate others. And win, lose, or draw, a great play still elicits excited shouts of joy from all players. Continue reading All the Players are Belong to Us: Multiplayer Games in Libraries

Take Five: What YA Novel Would Make a Great Video Game?

These days, stories often cross multiple platforms, but YA novels aren’t often adapted to the video game format even though some are idea for the format. This week, Hub bloggers imagine great books as video games.

Take Five The Hub

What YA novel would make a great video game?

Ender’s Game would make an excellent video game, with lots of mini-games thrown in. The game could mimic the game Ender and his friends played or could be the story of the book in game format. — Jenni Frencham

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline.  Because if there were a video game version, you’d get to play all of the 80’s games referenced in the book (a collection of games within a game!) AND get to play the super awesome recite Monty Python game (which should totally be on the market now!). — Stacy Holbrook   Continue reading Take Five: What YA Novel Would Make a Great Video Game?

Storytelling in Video Games

As an educator, I think it’s clear early on that the best way to motivate your students is to make connections with them.

I remember a kid talking excitedly with his buddy in one of my seminar classes a few years ago. He was talking about a game he was playing on his Xbox 360. “It’s crazy,” he kept saying as he continued to list what he loved about it. I listened for awhile before interjecting. “Are you guys talking about “Bioshock: Infinite?”

They looked at me incredulously and nodded. “Dude, that game is crazy,” I said. “Have you played the first one?” The boy who had been telling the story shook his head. “It surprised me so much I tossed my controller across the room,” I told him.

They laughed and we started talking about different games we liked and before I knew it, I’d begun my tenure as the resident gamer on the teaching staff.

image via Flickr User JD Hancock CC 2.0
image via Flickr User JD Hancock CC 2.0

I appreciate the cultural shift that’s happening with gaming. I know that as an English teacher, I was expected to be shaking my finger at kids who want to “rot their mind” with all those TV shows and games. Continue reading Storytelling in Video Games

Video Games in Libraries: Don’t Ignore Single Player Games

Having been a librarian for 9 years, discussion of libraries and video games has seemed a near constant. Early in my career, I took a webinar on how to use video games in libraries. I even got to spend work time playing Runescape. We held Guitar Hero tournaments. We bought systems. We worked video gaming into our programming. Even after nine years, questions still exist. The videogame landscape constantly shifts. What are libraries doing to offer gaming to their teens? What can they be doing better? What games should libraries own? What systems?


You have to do what is best for your organization and teens. However, we can discuss some trends and best practices. For a few posts, I will discuss video games for programming.

Conventional wisdom says libraries should offer games where the largest numbers of players can play simultaneously. I wonder how many libraries own Wiis for this reason. Multi-player games are terrific. They get teens involved. They can create community. However, I implore librarians to not ignore single player titles for their library.

Video Games for Libraries

With the rise of Youtube and Twitch, teens are accustomed to watching people play games, sometimes never even playing certain titles for themselves. Watching their peers playthrough video games can often be more rewarding for all of the teens involved. Continue reading Video Games in Libraries: Don’t Ignore Single Player Games