Games folks on libraries: Brenda Romero

This installment’s interviewee, Brenda Romero, has a list of accomplishments far too long for me to easily fit in our standard intro paragraph below – you can see a more complete story at http://romero.com/bios/. But even to that I need to add that I personally owe her a tremendous debt: her pioneering work in demonstrating how games can explore profound questions just as any other artistic medium can has been hugely influential in shaping my own appreciation of and commitment to play as culture that deserves intelligent, critical engagement and curation just as much as any other artform. It’s a real honour to have her here! My thanks to Brenda – not only for participating in this interview but for her entire body of work.

Influential in the early years of PC gaming, Brenda Romero began her career in games at 15 and hasn’t stopped since, leading design on a major cRPG series and then moving from genre to genre within video games, branching out into academia, making non-digital games that explore issues of profound historical and personal consequence, and shining a light on just how vast the possibilities for games really are. A leader and educator in the best sense of both words, she both expands our understanding of games and play and reminds us that we cannot explore all those possibilities without the full spectrum of humanity being free to participate in those explorations. She currently runs Romero Games with her husband, John Romero (yes, the one who was part of igniting the first-person action genre), teaches at UC Santa Cruz, serves on the advisory board of the International Center for the History of Electronic Games at the Strong Museum of Play, and has just (in the last few days) returned from a Fulbright Fellowship trip to Ireland.

Brenda, thank you so much for finding time for us so soon after a major international trip! What is your past experience of libraries?

Interestingly enough, my connection to libraries is quite strong. My mother volunteered at a library for years and re-cataloged the library to go with the Dewey Decimal system. Her love for books and our regular trips to the library are among my cherished memories. I don’t recall there being board games at our library, though. I am sure there were board games there, but somehow, I missed them. Their collection of video games was quite small and usually pretty tattered.

What is your sense of where libraries are now, both in relation to games and in general?

It’s a challenge for libraries, I think, in regards to games. Having a lending library is near impossible when one thinks of the on-line nature of video games. That said, there is a tremendous body of work which exists in boxed form and printed form that institutes like the Strong Museum are working to collect and catalog. Their library is the best game-related library I have seen.

Where do you see this going, and where could it go?

As a game historian, I hope to see more people have access to games and to computers through their local libraries. This is particularly important in areas where computers are not commonplace. Games are increasingly becoming an educational tool, and access is more important than ever.

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