Teen Librarian Toolbox
Inside Teen Librarian Toolbox

TPiB: Undertale Party

Last week, I wrote a review about the video game UndertaleIf you haven’t read it, go ahead and skim it before trying out this program! Also, be sure to ask your regular teens if they’re fans of Undertale before deciding to do this program. Undertale is a niche fandom that isn’t nearly as big as something like Pokemon Go, so make sure you are guaranteed an audience first!

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I had my Undertale program a few weekends ago on a Saturday afternoon. One of my regular teens volunteered to help decorate our program room and plan games, which was a HUGE help!  The best part about my Undertale program was how it attracted teens from all over our county who didn’t know each other, and they all exchanged phone numbers at the end!

Music: I always like to play music in the background during programs because it makes it less awkward if there’s a lull in conversation.  I recommend two different playlists for this program.  First, you can play Undertale’s soundtrack on this YouTube playlist.  But, if you want to get hardcore, you can play music from the Undertale musical. Yes, you read that correctly!  Someone made an Undertale musical, which you can find on YouTube here.  This is a bonus for your teens who are big Hamilton fans!

YouTube Video:

Food: There are a ton of ridiculous names for food in Undertale, and they’re inspirational for food creation activities (a part of me wishes I made rock candy with the teens!)For a complete list, you can click here.

I chose to buy a candy mix and called it “Monster Candy”, Cinnamon Bunnies, and Spider Cider.  I had teens create and bake their own Cinnamon Bunnies using Pillsbury dough and chocolate chips.  We made big bunnies, small bunnies, and what we dubbed “womp bunnies” for all of the bunnies whose ears fell off while eating it.  I also poured apple cider in cups and put plastic spiders in them.

Craft: I always try to give the teens something to take home from a large program like this, so I printed out Undertale perler bead patterns and let the teens go nuts.  Kandi Patterns has plenty of different character patterns available for free!  *Be sure you have PLENTY of black available, because every single character needs a black outline!*

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Perler beads are the perfect craft for this video game because the game’s graphics are 8-bit, and perler beads look just like the video game!  Creating perler bead crafts gave the teens something to do with their hands while they talked all things Undertale.  They talked for a long time about their favorite character, what path they played through first, and what is their favorite YouTuber “Let’s Play” video.

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Games: Figuring out games to play was a little tricky.  I did not want to play the video game itself because it’s only a single player game, and I wanted all of my teens to be engaged at once.  I decided to pick aspects of Undertale that were fun, and create activities that are somewhat related.  You could easily do your own puzzle activities, since that would fit Undertale’s gameplay.

Pun Off: Puns are a big part of the game, whether you enjoy them or not.  I planned to have a formal “Pun Off”, but it actually manifested by itself during the perler beads crafts.  The teens tried to come up with their best puns and reciting puns they memorized from the game.

Collect Gold Coins: In order to survive in the game, players have to collect coins which can be used to buy food for health.  I actually planned out a scavenger hunt for gold coins, but that fell through because our library reorganized our interior that weekend because we are renovating soon!  So, I decided to repurpose the ball pit balls that I spray painted gold and have the teens play a live version of Hungry Hungry Hippos.  Is Hungry Hungry Hippos related to Undertale? Not in the slightest, but it wouldn’t be a library program without a little improvisation!

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Disarming a Bomb:  One popular mini game in Undertale is disarming bombs in under three minutes.  I wanted to do something related to disarming bombs, which is how I discovered the video game Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes.  I reviewed it for TLT, which you can read here.  The teens LOVED this game, and it will now be featured at our weekly Teen Game Night program!

Marshmallow Target Practice:  I printed out a giant version of Flowey, taped him to our library building outside, and let the teens practice throwing marshmallows at it.  I made sure to buy those giant campfire marshmallows for easy throwing! Flowey is the primary boss in the game, so don’t be fooled by the cute looking flower.

Glow Stick Dance Party: I had a celebratory dance program at the very end, especially because they were full of sugar!  I turned off the lights, gave them glow sticks, and turned up the music!

Video: Glow stick party

Questions? Comments? Tweet them at me!

By: Alanna Graves
Twitter: @LannaLibrarian

 

Video Games Weekly: Super Mario Maker

supermariomakerThis week, I’m reviewing Super Mario Maker, which I have been anxiously awaiting for weeks! Super Mario Maker is probably the most unique Mario game Nintendo has put out in recent years, and I’m looking forward to showing you why!

Platform: Wii U

Rated: E for “Everyone”, but don’t let that fool you. This game is rated “E” because there isn’t violence, gore, sex, etc. but that doesn’t mean that kids/teens will be able to beat every level they attempt. For example, there is a level called “Pit of Panga: P-Break” which is the most “difficult” level in Super Mario Maker [for now] that has made grown men cry when they FINALLY beat it. Watch this YouTube video if you don’t believe me (warning: turn down your volume) :

Single or Multiplayer: Single player. You can, however, have teens play with the same policy that my brother and I had while growing up: When you die, I’ll play.

Quick Synopsis: First of all, the video game character “Mario” dates back to the ‘80s. The first Mario arcade game came out in 1983 called Mario Bros. It was a sidescrolling platform jumper, which means Mario runs left to right, and can jump up and down. The goal was always to save Princess Peach from the evil Bowser, and you have to beat levels in order to find her.

Since then, there have been many Mario themed video games, but Super Mario Maker has completely changed the sidescrolling platform jumper genre. Instead of players beating levels designed and created by Nintendo game developers, players create their own levels for other players to beat. This is genius for so many reasons! First of all, adult players [like myself] who have been playing Nintendo games since they were kids can experience some serious nostalgia. Second, Super Mario Maker never feels boring because players from around the world are constantly releasing new levels for others to play. Players can sort of “beat” the game by either defeating the “10 Mario Challenge”, where players are given 10 lives to beat 8 sample levels, or by defeating the “100 Mario Challenge” where they have 100 lives to beat a certain number of levels, but every time you fail a challenge, you have to start over with new levels. This gives the game a long shelf life since the game is always changing and is full of surprises.   Third, this is a great STEM learning opportunity for kids/teens, which I will get to later.

Controls:

Playing Levels: Players can either use the Wii U Gamepad, Wii Remote, Wii Pro Controller, or a classic controller. In a level, Mario can move right, left, jump up, or slam down. Mario can also change into different “costumes” if the they are available in a level. The goal for each level is to reach the “end”, usually by hitting a switch.

Creating Levels: Players who are creating their own level have to use the Wii U Gamepad to drag and drop items on a course. Players can use a variety of enemies, artwork, and items from previous Mario games to create their level. This is fun because players can also “blend” items to make non-conventional combinations. This makes levels interesting for both older and younger players because every time Mario approaches an item, the player has no clue what is going to happen! I should also mention that in order for a level to be posted online, the creator has to be able to beat it themselves. This is a great game mechanic because it prevents mean people from posting impossible levels! Once your level is complete, the level is posted to the “Course World” where other players can comment and rank your level.

If you’re interested in watching a player create a level, here’s a good YouTube video:

Amiibo: A quick note about Amiibos. Amiibos are tiny figurines that players can purchase to unlock special content from Nintendo, but they are not required in order to play the game. With the Wii U, you place the Amiibo on the Wii U Gamepad near the NFC reader. If you use an Amiibo in Super Mario Maker, it unlocks more costumes for Mario.

STEM Appeal: There is a lot of STEM appeal for teens who are interested in game development. In the video game medium, a game has to have a “balance” in order for it to be considered a “good” game. That balance is mainly between game mechanics and difficulty, although there are other theories/contributing factors that make a good game. By playing Super Mario Maker, teens get a quick introduction to learning that balance. A teen’s goal is to create a level that is challenging enough to make players have a difficult time beating it, but not TOO difficult where it becomes impossible and makes players give up quickly. Remember that “Pit of Panga: P-Break” level that I talked about earlier? That level has been widely popular with hardcore gamers because it nearly impossible to beat, but casual gamers such as myself haven’t even attempted it because I don’t want to invest the time/effort. So, teens have to think about their level’s audience, skill level, and difficulty when creating a level. You know, like a game developer.

Verdict: I definitely recommend this as a core purchase for video game collections. It may or may not do well at a Teen Game Night program because you can only have one player at a time, but teens can pass the controller around when they die. Alternatively, you can ask teens to create a level together and see how it does in the online Course World. Make sure you have an internet connection, otherwise you will not be able to access levels created by other players, nor post your own.

By Alanna Graves
Twitter: @LannaLibrarian

Pricing

$59.99 on Amazon http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_1?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=super+mario+maker

Video Games Weekly: Video Game Genres 101

videogamesweeklyThis week, I wanted to reach out to those of you who are not very familiar with video games. So, I thought it might be helpful to write out a list of video game genres and definitions! I will probably be linking to this article frequently, and will update it as new genres/terms emerge in the video game realm [and the ones I accidentally skipped].

Video games, like books, can be broken down into different genres. Video game genres, however, tend to represent either the story experience or game play mechanics, but a game can have many “genres” assigned to it. These two factors create endless combinations, and are what makes the video game medium so unique!

Story Experience Genres

Action – This is a broad term for a game that has an emphasis on physical challenges. Action games usually have a player controlling one character, and navigating an environment while battling enemies or obstacles. Many “action” games are also “adventure” games. One example is Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor.

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Adventure – This is a broad term for a game that has an emphasis on puzzles and interactions with the game environment, and do not require quick reflexes. Typically, there is less violence compared to shooter games, but that is not always the case. Many “adventure” games are also “actions” games.

Party – Party games are created intentionally for groups of people to play together. They’re often simple to learn, and have a variety of “mini games”. Think of any Mario Party game.

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Role Playing – Also known as “RPG”. It’s a broad term for a game where the player controls one or more characters in a well established world. World exploring is key to this genre, and usually the character has to complete “quests”. In a way, you can think of it as Dungeons and Dragons, but in a video game! One example of a role playing game is Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim.

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Simulation – This game tries to emulate a real life experience, or a fictional reality. There are subgenres like sports, real life, and construction simulation games. An example of a popular simulation game is the Sims franchise.

Sports – This game can fit into “simulation”, but even then sports games can be broken down into more genres. There are sports games almost for every sport, ranging from football, baseball, to racing, even including Quidditch!

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Strategy – These games have an emphasis on planning and skillful thinking in order to win the game. The game is usually slow paced so players can carefully plan their moves. There are subgenres such as “turn-based strategy”, which means players alternate taking turns to move their pieces. A popular strategy game is the Civilization franchise.

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Game Play Mechanics

Massive Multiplayer Online Games – As the name suggests, this is a type of game where many players play together online. There are subgenres like “massive multiplayer online role playing games”, also known as “MMORPGs”, which are the most popular. The best example is the game World of Warcraft.

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Platform – Also knowns as “platform jumper” games, where the player has to navigate a series of platforms to reach the end, often with enemies in their way. Well known platform jumper games are Super Mario and Donkey Kong.

Sandbox – This type of game takes place in a “free world” where players can do whatever they wish. A sandbox game can have goals or objectives but at its core, players are meant to roam free without any restraints. The best example is Minecraft.

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Shooter – This is the oldest genre in video games. As the name suggests, players have to destroy a target or enemies using a weapon. The game continues as long as the player survives. Players develop quick reflexes due to fast paced gameplay.
First Person Shooter – Also known as “FPS”. This is a sub genre of shooter games, where the game is experienced from the character’s perspective. This point of view is useful for players who want to focus their aim, and have a “real” gameplay experience. Well known FPS games are Call of Duty and Halo.


Third Person Shooter – Also known as “TPS” or “3PS”. This is a sub genre of shooter games, where the game is experienced outside of the character’s perspective, i.e. players can view both their character and their surrounding environment, as if the camera is behind the character. A well known 3PS games is Gears of War.

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By Alanna Graves

Video Games Weekly: Welcome!

videogamesweeklyHello, dear reader! My name is Alanna, and I am incredibly excited to start contributing to TLT about video games! For my first post (*gulp*), I would like to quickly introduce myself, and get to know you! Next week, I promise I will review a newer game. In the meantime, if you have any questions about video games, please do not hesitate to comment below or tweet @LannaLibrarian.

 

My love for video games dates back to the late 1990s. Almost every Christmas, my family would pack up our minivan and drive 14 hours from our home in suburban Chicago to my grandparents’ house in Pennsylvania. One particular Christmas, my family was having a holiday party, and there weren’t any other kids around except for me and my younger brother. To save us from dying of boredom, my uncle brought us upstairs. There, he had a PlayStation hooked up to their TV, with Crash Bandicoot inside.

From that moment on, my brother and I were hooked. We eventually got our own PlayStation, followed by a GameCube, then a PlayStation 2…and the list goes on and on.

Fast forward to graduate school. I went to University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana for both my Bachelor’s in History and my Master’s in Library and Information Science. While at U of I, I had the privilege of working as a graduate assistant for the Residence Hall Libraries. One of my duties was collection development for our print and media collection, which was exciting for me because we had video games!  During my last semester of graduate school, I made the frightening but rewarding decision to take on a new position, move across the country to New Jersey, and start my professional career as a Teen Services Librarian in Cape May County, NJ.

It was back when I was working in Illinois when first noticed there are not many video game collection development resources. Sure, you can read gamer reviews like Metacritic, Game Informer, and IGN, but they are mostly written both for and from the perspective of the target demographic in gaming: white males in their teens or 20s. While the gamer community is so much more diverse, there is a noticeable lack of representation of “the others” in games and players alike (sounds familiar, right?). This is problematic for librarians, because we strive to provide resources for everyone. Here’s an example of the problem:familygamenight4Family Game Night 4: The Game Show came out for the Wii in 2011. On these gamer review sites, Family Game Night 4: The Game Show received: one negative review from a critic on Metacritic, is currentlty unavailable on Game Informer, and a “5.8 – Mediocre” from users (no critic reviews) on IGN.

If librarians work off of these gamer review websites alone, we could miss an opportunity to purchase a fun game for the patrons who do not have a similar identity as the target audience.  In contrast to these negative reviews, Family Game Night 4: The Game Show is consistently checked out at my library.  This doesn’t surprise me.  After all, this game is an excellent choice for families who want to play together, especially families who have younger children or teens who want to play video games with their younger siblings. Sure, the graphics are not that great, the gameplay is simplistic, and a lot of mini games are from earlier editions in the series, but the game fills the demand for a family friendly “party” game.  And my hips stats don’t lie!

My goal for this column is to bridge the gap between Library Land and Video Game Land, since I am an active member of both.  I hope to help other librarians make informed decisions about purchasing video games for collection development and Teen Game Night programs.  I’m not an expert, but I think I know a thing or two about games, and maybe you will find this useful.  Who knows! Maybe I can even convince you to pick up a controller!