Powell Librarian Simon Lee Discusses Powell's Video Game Events, the Upcoming Game Collection, and the Future of Games in Powell

Have you been to a video game-related event in Powell? Thank Inquiry Librarian and Lead for Learning Technologies Simon Lee. Simon has worked to organize these events, which include the annual International Games Day, and concerts by the Game Music Ensemble. He’s also working on a video game collection for Powell. The connection between video games and libraries might seem unclear to some, but when we talked to Simon about the exciting additions and plans he’s made, he showed us that the two fit together perfectly.
Q: How did all of this start?
A: In 2012, I attended a library conference and was greatly inspired by a speaker named Scott Nicholson, who spoke about games and changing perspectives.  At one point, he told us to write an idea down on a piece of paper, present that idea to our respective library, and act on it.  Upon my return, I presented an inspirational story on the topic of game-based learning and changing perspectives, which ended with an applause so powerful I knew I could “act on it” so my first goal was to build a community of support.  
To build community, I created a Facebook Group and then organized UCLA Library’s first annual celebration of International Games Day in November of 2012.  Among these collaborators included student gaming groups like Enigma, student and faculty game designers from Design | Media Arts, The Game Lab, and Library Special Collections.  Altogether, we had student and faculty designed games, an exhibit of 19th century tabletop games, and various commercial tabletop and video games. I even wanted a music concert but didn’t have much luck.
Nevertheless, International Games Day was a great success in building community and making connections.  To my surprise, the Video Game Orchestra and Choir formed the following year and performed for IGD 2013.  In 2014, the Game Music Ensemble at UCLA was established and performed for IGD.  So basically that’s how things started, really by acting on an idea I was curious about, finding inspiration, and seeing it grow and develop.
Q: What’s your favorite of the gaming events that you’ve done in Powell?
A: I’d probably have to say Player’s Choice, the name given to last year’s full concert performance by the Video Game Orchestra and Choir. The students worked hard, rehearsing in the Organ Studio in Schoenberg on Friday evenings for months leading up to the event. I was able to attend a few of their rehearsal sessions and I was simply floored! These are students who have a passion for music and video games and only a small percentage of them are music majors. When it was show time on April 12th, I certainly felt a bit nervous but they captivated the audience of 200, if not more, with a spectacle to be remembered. 
Q: What do you think is the biggest thing you’ve learned from working on these projects?
A: I think the biggest thing I’ve learned is how to work with student groups and different campus entities and not trying to do it all by myself. The first year I felt a bit lonely but the subsequent years have been different. The past year I have gained more support in helping with planning and coordination, publicity and promotion, and rearranging the spaces. I have also learned and have gained a better understanding and appreciation of the work that our Events and Exhibits Coordinator oversees on a quarterly basis. 
Q: Where do you see this going in the future? You mentioned buying a collection…
A: Powell Library has demonstrated significant change over the past couple years.  Among these changes will be the inclusion of a video game community collection.  In partnership with the Arts and Music libraries, the collection will consist of art books, musical scores/sheets, video games, and related monographs.  The scope of the collection will be current but I’m well aware that there will definitely be questions about older games, questions about preservation, and questions about preserving the original experience of playing certain games. What happens 50, 75, or 100 years from now? Although this is new and different for UCLA, other campus institutions such as Stanford and UCSC have been tackling these challenges and it’s only a matter of time before cross-institutional knowledge sharing and support on this specific topic begins.
Thank you, Simon!
Speaking of Powell’s video game collection, look for the collection’s launch later this year, with titles including Bioshock Infinite, Mario Kart 8, and Portal 2, to name a few.
Want to hear the Game Music Ensemble for yourself? Check out this video of their performance of "Flight" from the game Deep Blue Sky at International Games Day 2014! (Permission to perform granted by Jacob Pernell.)