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Pixelating Libraries: Bridging Books and Bytes

by on January 25, 2024

In this article, I share personal opinions that do not represent my employer or any library agency. Additionally, King Pangnapa is a fictional creation, and any resemblances to real-life events are purely coincidental.

In the midst of book bans and budget cuts, I turned to art to navigate the challenges within our field. This artistic exploration delves into the unexpected but profound connection between video games and libraries. The union of video games and libraries may seem unconventional, but it has deep roots. Public libraries, once the gateway to computer experiences, evolved with the digital age. Today, as children immerse themselves in games like Roblox, it prompts contemplation on the evolving dynamics and its impact on library services.

Embarking on my game design journey, I sought to create a video game that enlightens gamers about the profound significance of libraries. As librarians, our journey involves overcoming challenges like budget cuts and societal issues, expanding our mission beyond conventional boundaries. Submitted for my MA in Game Design at Lindenwood University, my game defies norms. Prioritizing the librarian experience over typical gaming mechanics, it offers players a unique lens into the life of a librarian, forsaking traditional cutscenes and voice acting.

Meet King Pangnapa, the 6000-year-old penguin, embodying the power fantasy craved in the gaming industry. His poignant backstory, banishment, and encounters with magical entities like Biblio and Library Gods add layers to his character. His quest: archiving human history and preserving books. Enter Mr. Grumpypants, the Tiger King of Capitalism, embodying real-world challenges from book bans to power structures. The video game transforms into a battlefield against censorship, encapsulating the struggles librarians face in defending knowledge. Accompanied by Nine Inch Nails’ music, the game’s narrative unfolds, capturing the self-loathing and battles faced by King Pangnapa. From “Into the Void” to “March of the Pigs,” the music acts as a poignant backdrop, intensifying the gaming experience.

cartoon illustration of penguin

King Pangnapa

As the game concludes, it sets the stage for a sequel, “Master of All Librarians,” delving into leadership dynamics and the pivotal role of libraries in democracy. Despite skepticism about the game’s impact, the collaborative process stands as a beacon to inspire a new generation of librarians.

This project, born from frustration and anxiety, metamorphoses into a tribute to colleagues, acknowledging the exceptional work of librarians. Despite feeling powerless, the creation of this game is an artistic endeavor, aspiring to reshape the perception of libraries positively.