Tartan Datascapes March 2022: How Watching Video Game Let’s Plays Made Me a Better Data Librarian

Video Game Controller

While Tartan Datascapes is normally written directly for the students, faculty, and staff in the CMU community engaging with data in fun and unique ways, I decided to dedicate this month’s issue to other data librarians who are working with researchers on data challenges and opportunities, and share some of my own inspirations in growing on my journey as a data librarian. As will be no surprise to seasoned readers of this blog, much of the inspiration for my work as a data librarian comes from my experiences in the world of video games! Beyond playing (many many hours of) video games each week, I also watch a lot of video game Let’s Plays, which are videos where a person/group of people film themselves playing video games, offering their own commentary as they play along with the game. I absolutely love these videos, because not only do they allow me to experience, or re-experience, video games that I’ve played or want to play, they also help me see new perspectives on video games through the eyes of other players. Some of my favorite Let’s Play videos are from RKG, an entertainment company from the United Kingdom led by Rory Powers, Daniel Krupa, and Gav Murphy, that hosts their videos on YouTube. In all the time that I’ve spent watching the Let’s Plays from RKG, not only have they brought me laughter, joy, and comfort, they’ve also helped me professionally by inspiring me to grow my skills as a data librarian for researchers at CMU. How can the video game Let’s Plays from RKG help us become better data librarians? Keep reading to find out!

Lesson #1: Being Supportive Even If You Don’t Have the Controller

I am, by no means, an expert in all things data. In one of my first consultations after beginning my job here at CMU in 2019, I was working with a researcher who was encountering an issue in Python that was beyond my familiarity with the programming language, and I had to be honest with her and say that I didn’t know the solution to her issue, but I could help her do some research online to see what we might find. For the next hour, we sat together with our laptops and perused Stack Overflow, Reddit, and programming blogs to see if we could locate an answer for her coding problem. Each time we found a promising Stack Overflow question or a Reddit post with a similar issue, I was visibly excited and encouraged us to read it and see if we might apply it to her code. By the end of the hour, while we didn’t find the exact solution that was needed, we were able to find some sources that helped the researcher identify where her next steps to solve the problem would need to be. While I was initially sad that I couldn’t immediately identify the problem in the code, she thanked me and said “just having you there encouraging me and helping me do this searching was so helpful and exactly what I needed.” I’ve kept this moment close to me as I continue my work as a data librarian, always remembering that I may not always know the answer to a data problem, but I can be encouraging and be present to help the researcher find the help they need. My inspiration in being an encouraging and enthusiastic partner in sleuthing data problems comes from RKG’s Resident Evil 2 series, in which Rory plays as Leon Kennedy, battling a particularly strong and resilient boss. As Rory works through the boss fight, Gav and Krupa are there to encourage Rory, and even though they don’t have the controller, their encouragement plays a strong role in supporting Rory’s eventual success in the fight.

Content warning for language and video game violence (weapons, explosions, zombies) in the video ahead.

Note: clip of interest is from 11:31 to 13:26

Lesson #2: Find out Their “Jurassic Park”

I’ve mentioned Animal Crossing: New Horizons several times in this blog, as it’s easily one of my favorite video games and a great place to craft a virtual environment that is meaningful to me. In the following video from RKG, Rory and Gav have swapped islands in Animal Crossing: New Horizons and given each other full leeway to change whatever they would like about each other’s islands, and both chaos and heartwarming moments ensue. During the reveal, Rory shows Gav his rendition of Jurassic Park (of which Gav is a massive fan) that he has built on his island, and it’s a great example of doing something kind for another person and bringing them joy!

Note: clip of interest is from 13:55 to 16:49

For me, moments like this inspire me to want to recreate this same reaction in other people’s lives, particularly with the researchers I work with on a daily basis as a data librarian. What are my researcher’s versions of Jurassic Park that would bring them joy if I was able to deliver to them? This might include helping them write a data management plan, or locating the perfect data repository for their project’s data, or connecting them with a resource that helps solve a really tough programming problem. Whatever that version of their Jurassic Park is, I always try to find it and use my capacity as a data librarian to help them experience moments like Gav has here.

Lesson #3: Celebrate the Victories!

The data librarians reading this can likely empathize with the wonderful feeling that comes from that moment that you help a researcher solve a problem with their data, or help them unlock a new opportunity for themselves/their data. It’s amazing! I absolutely thrive on these moments, and I take a lot of inspiration in celebrating these moments from RKG. Across RKG’s Let’s Plays, the hard-fought battles that Rory encounters and perseveres through are always celebrated by Rory and Gav, and it’s wonderful to see their joy in Rory’s victory which is ultimately a victory for all three of them as members of RKG. Here, the boys play Totally Accurate Battle Simulator and jovially celebrate Rory’s triumphant win over Zeus.

Note: clip of interest is from 32:00 to 33:16

Each time a researcher I am working with has a victory with their data, it’s also a victory for me as a data librarian who gets to work with them and help them in any way I can. Each time I can celebrate one of these victories, it makes me happy to continue growing in my journey as a data librarian and support more victories in the future!

So, the next time you watch a video game Let’s Play, you might also be learning how to become a better data librarian. Video games are so much more than virtual environments we interact with across a screen - they can offer us personal/professional growth, and inspiration for what we want to be. Looking for more content on the world of video games and data? Be sure to check out Pixel Datascapes and future issues of Tartan Datascapes!

by Hannah Gunderman, Data, Gaming, and Popular Culture Librarian