This month I wrapped up my final project for my “Media Literacy for Teens” course in my Master of Library and Information Science program at the University of Illinois. We had to create an annotated bibliography with 13-15 sources on a topic relevant to media literacy for teens. I chose to take a look at available resources for creating educational gaming programs in libraries. I’m sharing it here in hopes that it might be useful to someone else. This isn’t an exhaustive list. Be sure to check the works cited sections in the sources listed here, as well; and, as always, there’s my ever-growing Reading List, which lists several resources across many gaming topics.

Teens and Games-based Learning: Developing Educational (and Recreational) Tabletop Games Programs for Teens


As play-, inquiry-, and game-based learning continue to be emerging and prevalent methods of instruction at educational institutions, and as the tabletop gaming industry continues to grow (also read here, here, and here), libraries are in a unique position as community hubs to create relevant games programming for their communities. The American Library Association has created a Games and Gaming Round Table in response to the growing popularity of using games in libraries and some librarians are sharing their experiences via blog posts (examples here, here, and here). Libraries can provide access to games that match community interests and school curricula. Libraries can also illustrate the many benefits of tabletop games to parents as some parents are concerned that games are purely recreation and even a waste of time.

This bibliography is for librarians (public and school) who want to create gaming events and programs for teens with a focus on tabletop games. The resources in this bibliography seek to increase tabletop gaming literacy for the librarians building programs for teens and to help librarians implement programs that increase tabletop gaming literacy with teens as a means of education on a variety of topics, connecting games to literacies for teens in reading, writing, math, creativity, social interactions, and more. Tabletop games primarily include card games, board games, miniature war games, and role-playing games. Some tabletop games incorporate digital components, but tabletop games are not wholly comprised of digital/video components. There is one article on the list (Gee, 2005) that is primarily about video games, but the principles discussed in the article are easily transferable to tabletop games and Gee is prolific on the topic of game-based learning and literacy. The resource list includes game databases, tools for measuring user experience, accounts from libraries about successful and unsuccessful programs, learning principle outlines, tools for matching games to AASL Standards, and tools for evaluating the accessibility (physical and social) of games.

Resources that focused purely on abstract games such as chess or checkers were avoided for this list. While abstract games do have educational merit and some teens may enjoy playing them, the success of gaming programs for teens in libraries depends more significantly on games that offer more direct social interactions and action or storytelling (Nicholson, 2010). Teens want to see the recreational merits of gaming programs.

Annotated Bibliography

Barbara, J. (2015). Measuring User Experience in Board Games. In I. Management Association (Ed.), Gamification: Concepts, Methodologies, Tools, and Applications, 1264-1280. Hershey, PA: IGI Global. doi:10.4018/978-1-4666-8200-9.ch063

  • Purpose: To determine the viability of using “The Game Experience Questionnaire” (IJsselsteijn 2013), which was originally formulated for video games, to measure user experiences with board games
  • Significance: If any analysis or research into user experience is planned, it is useful to have a developed and vetted questionnaire tool that is specific to the medium being analyzed. In this article, Barbara goes through a literature review, method explanation, research results, and discussion, as well as provides suggestions for future research. Reading through his process, results, and recommendations gives a starting point for either using the tool as is or altering it to better fit adjusted goals. This is one of the first user experience measurement tools seen specifically for modern board games, so there is potential for adapting and perfecting it to target specific games or themes within games.

Bailey, A., McDougall, R. (2014). Tabletop Role-Playing Games. In Teen Games Rule!: A Librarian’s Guide to Platforms and Programs (89-102). Santa Barbara, CA: Libraries Unlimited.

  • Purpose: To provide an overview on role-playing games (RPGs) and how to use them in libraries, along with a list of games and resources
  • Significance: The authors provide an overview of what role-playing games are and who typically plays them. One of the highlights of this chapter is the section “Justifying RPGs to Your Library Leadership,” in which the authors outline the literacy and numeracy benefits of RPGs and why libraries are a place to play RPGs. They also discuss how to run a RPG program, going over necessary commitments of staff, time, money, space, and patrons, as well as things needed and where to find them, including options for free or cheap games in addition to mainstream commercial games. The section on challenges is particularly useful and covers finding game masters, communication, player reliability and attentiveness, and rules flexibility.

BoardGameGeek. (n.d.). Retrieved April 26, 2018, from

  • Purpose: To offer a free, online database, resources, and community for tabletop games: the database includes a listing for thousands of tabletop games (card games, board games, miniatures games, role-playing games); the resources include reviews, ratings, player aids, and session reports; the community includes player profiles, forums, and a marketplace
  • Significance: BoardGameGeek (BGG) is the largest database of tabletop game information online. BGG is not affiliated with any one games publisher, so they are not driven by obligations to any specific games, publishers, designers, etc. Access to the database is free and anyone can use the site to view the database. Registration is only required for participation on the site (posting reviews, rating games, using the forums, etc.). A game listing includes useful information such as average user rating, game descriptions, publisher/designer information, a list of game mechanics and themes, and any forum posts, photos, or files associated with the game. The site’s main page does look a bit outdated, but it is a comprehensive database. Users can search for games based on title, designer, artist, game type, mechanic, or theme. There is also a Games in Schools and Libraries community on BGG.

Copeland, T., Henderson, B., Mayer, B., & Nicholson, S. (2013). Three Different Paths for Tabletop Gaming in School LibrariesLibrary Trends,61(4), 825-835. doi:10.1353/lib.2013.0018

  • Purpose: To provide three accounts of use of tabletop (non-digital) games in school libraries
  • Significance: These accounts provide real examples of integrating tabletop and role-playing games into a curriculum, creating a board gaming club, and running game design workshops. The programs include both education and recreation. The authors note that games can be flexible adapted to player needs, if necessary, to alter play time, insert lesson material, or even using game components to create new games. Concrete examples are offered to show how games engage students with curriculum material. Each of the three accounts has an example of teen participation. Many of the ideas can also be implemented in public libraries, especially if there is a school outreach initiative that allows the library to collaborate with teachers.

Gee, J. P. (2005). Good Video Games and Good Learning. Phi Kappa Phi Forum,85(2), 33-37. Retrieved from Games and Good Learning.pdf

  • Purpose: To provide an outline of sixteen learning principles that good games incorporate
  • Significance: Gee is often called the father of “Games Based Learning” and has spent his career evaluating video games, gaming culture, and media literacy. His sixteen principles of good learning in games, while applied to video games in this article, can also be applied to tabletop games (particularly non-abstract games). Many modern board games and role-playing games incorporate aspects of video games in a non-digital format, so Gee’s principles are useful for evaluating the educational potential of these games. The version of his paper in the Phi Kappa Phi Forum is a concise, condensed version of a longer paper/book chapter that he wrote. He highlights the main points of each principle with reasoning and examples.

Hays, L., McNair, K. (Presenter). (2017, April 27). The Name of the Game: Playing Tabletop Games to Build 21st Century Skills [Video file]. Retrieved from

  • Purpose: A webinar and other resources on tabletop gaming in libraries and how to align tabletop games programming to 21st Century Skills (a framework for learning established by P21 with the help of teachers, education experts, and business leaders)
  • Significance: Hays is a Research Librarian and Co-director of the Center for Games; McNair is a Teen Services Librarian and on the YALSA Board of Directors. They provide insight and examples of using tabletop games to foster learning experiences in communication, collaboration, critical thinking, global awareness and creativity. Using the 21st Century Skills framework, they illustrate why tabletop games have a place in the library and the classroom. In addition to the webinar, links to the slides and webinar chat are provided.

Heron, M. J., Belford, P. H., Reid, H., & Crabb, M. (2018). Meeple Centred Design: A Heuristic Toolkit for Evaluating the Accessibility of Tabletop GamesThe Computer Games Journal. doi:10.1007/s40869-018-0057-8

  • Purpose: To discuss accessibility issues in board games, both physical and social, and to provide results of an accessibility measurement tool
  • Significance: Accessibility is an important factor when designing any library program, but particularly when the program is utilizing a hands-on, physical component in a social capacity, such as tabletop games. When choosing games for a program/collection, it is useful to evaluate how accessible the game is to the audience intended for its use. The Meeple Centred Design project completes accessibility teardowns of tabletop games, which are available via This article explains the method and reasoning for accessibility breakdowns and provides tools for evaluating accessibility in six main areas: visual impairments, cognitive impairments, physical impairments, communication impairments, socioeconomic impairments, and intersectional issues.

IJsselsteijn, W. A., De Kort, Y. A., & Poels, K. (2013). The Game Experience Questionnaire. Eindhoven: Technische Universiteit Eindhoven. Retrieved from

  • Purpose: A questionnaire for assessing user experience during and after game play
  • Significance: This is the questionnaire referenced above in Barbara (2015). The questionnaire consists of three parts: the core questionnaire, which assesses seven components of gaming experience (Immersion, Flow, Competence, Positive and Negative Affect, Tension, and Challenge) during game play; the social presence module, which evaluates the psychological and behavioral involvement of the player with other social entities (virtual, mediated, and/or co-located); and the post-game module, which assesses how players feel after they are done playing the game. The full questionnaire is provided, along with scoring and evaluation guidelines. While this questionnaire was developed for digital games, the article referenced above, Barbara (2015), evaluates and confirms the use for tabletop games, as well.

Inverse Genius. (n.d.). Games in Schools and Libraries. Retrieved from

  • Purpose: A podcast and blog that explores the use of games in schools and libraries
  • Significance: Games in Schools and Libraries is run by professionals currently working in schools and libraries who are implementing gaming curriculums and programs. They offer tested experiences and resources to the community. The navigation of the site is a bit cumbersome because there is not a search bar to search the site and the podcast and blog entries exist in the form of a running blog that has to be scrolled through with no navigation menu for topics. The authors’ experience and information are valuable, though. The blog contains program descriptions, game walk-throughs, conference reflections, and more. The podcast includes topics on using games for education and also hosts guest speakers in the education and gaming industries.

Kirsch, B. A. (Ed.). (2014). Games in libraries: Essays on using play to connect and instruct. Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company.

  • Purpose: To provide a collection of essays about creating game-based learning in library programs and events; to provide a history and explanation of the American Library Association’s Gamer Round Table group for librarians; to provide resources for librarians for creating games
  • Significance: Whereas several of the other sources on this list talk about using commercially published games for programming, this collection of essays has a large focus on creating games for library events/programs. The importance and emergence of game-based learning is discussed. The editor acknowledges the difficulty in designing good educational games and throughout the essays, each author illustrates things that worked and things that did not work in their attempts to create library games. The discussion of what did not work is particularly useful. While outcomes will vary from population to population, having examples of successes AND failures is helpful.

Mayer, B., & Harris, C. (2010). Libraries got game: Aligned learning through modern board games. Chicago, IL: American Library Association.

  • Purpose: To provide a background on modern board games, illustrate why games matter, provide resources for librarians, discuss games and 21st Century Skills, and provide a game list for specific grade levels
  • Significance: In the first section of the book, Mayer and Harris give a great description of modern board games, what they refer to as designer games, and discuss the characteristics of games being produced now during the current “board game renaissance.” They also discuss why games matter and how to get student/patron engagement. In the section about 21st century learners, they discuss specific examples showing how games align to informational and social skills, collaborative learning, and state/national curriculum standards. In the final section, the authors talk about how to start and manage a game collection and then provide a great list of recommended games, broken down by grade level.

Nicholson, S. (2010). Everyone plays at the library: Creating great gaming experiences for all ages. Medford, NJ: Information Today.

  • Purpose: To present common questions and answers about gaming in libraries; introduce a model of the library gaming experience and five experience archetypes; provide guidance on planning, facilitating, marketing, and assessing gaming programs
  • Significance: There is so much information in this book. One of the highlights is the breakdown of the five experience archetypes: social, narrative, action, knowledge, and strategy. Each experience archetype also includes a list of games and a gaming profile for each game that includes bibliographic information as well as the game’s demographic, complexity of teaching level, the kinds of interactions found in the game, and the skills used in the game. Demographics are broken down into children, teens, adults, seniors, and intergenerational, so it is easy to see recommendations for any given age group.

Powers, A. (2016, August 4). A Tabletop Game Approach to Teaching Rhetoric. Retrieved from

  • Purpose: To reflect on a MNU Games and LearningConference that had a focus on integrating tabletop games into learning experiences and provide an example of doing so in the classroom
  • Significance: Powers provides a wonderful example of how to use a game in the classroom, including a play session example of the game Snake Oil, methods for aligning the game to education standards, examples of how to modify the game for classroom use, and an example of how to debrief after game play. Her outline is thoughtful and provides a base for doing the same with other tabletop games. There is also a comment on the article from a librarian/professor who corroborates the usefulness of both the method and the specific game in teaching communication (rhetoric, persuasion, audience evaluation, etc.). The MNU’s Center for Games & Learning also references this article on their list of resources.

Stubbs, J. (2014). Traditional Board Games: From Ameritrash to Eurogames. In Teen Games Rule!: A Librarian’s Guide to Platforms and Programs (65-88). Santa Barbara, CA: Libraries Unlimited.

  • Purpose: To provide an overview on board games and how to use them in libraries, along with an annotated list of games
  • Significance: Stubbs provides a concise overview of modern board games and a comparison of European and American style games. He also discusses the benefits of traditional games in general, but also specifically for libraries. The key part of his chapter is the section “Implementing Board Games in a Library” where he goes over planning and buying games, preparing the collection and programming, running a gaming event, and what to do after the program. The section on running a gaming event is particularly insightful as it covers things like foods to avoid, handling damage to games, drawing in onlookers, and holding tournaments.

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