This essay first appeared in the August 2022 issue of Choice (volume 59 | issue 12).
“Can you help me find books on video games?” Librarians fielding this question know that the reference interview can go in many different directions. Since there are so many angles from which to examine video games, the librarian will need to ask questions to determine the scope, nature, focus, and level of the research. Does the patron want to examine violence in video games? Create their own games? Explore technology, history, or business models? Are they perhaps trying to beat a specific game level, or design something unique within a game world? The research process may be more complicated than it seems. Initial searches of library collections and catalogs may return results that are more description than analysis, such as novelizations and strategy guides. Books that focus on specific factors of video games, such as technology or business, may be shelved in the technology or business parts of the collection, making browsing for appropriate titles a fruitless endeavor. Even the terminology may be a barrier, not only because of title and subject variations (electronic game, digital game, console game, computer game) but because of lack of agreement on the term itself: is it “videogame” or “video game”? Searching for each term will return different results. This essay uses the term video game (which is consistent with Merriam-Webster)—except, of course, for titles that render it as one word.
This essay explores the various facets and is arranged accordingly, with an eye toward suggesting notable books that will help those researching individual aspects of video game research and critique. It is meant to aid librarians and researchers looking for starting points, key resources, and/or interesting explorations of the broad field of video games. The essay focuses exclusively on books and it is not exhaustive. In regard to the latter, in pointing out works that examine the literature on a certain subject this essay by definition points also to the bibliographies of many works discussed and thus provides additional depth for researchers narrowing down their area of study.
William McNelis is the library director of Brookdale Community College in New Jersey. He has reviewed books on video games and internet culture for Choice, and, as both a gamer and a librarian, enjoys exploring the intersection of these identities and cultures.