BYU Harold B. Lee Library features ‘Latter-day Gamers’ exhibit

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The O.C. Tanner Exhibition Room on the first floor of BYU’s Harold B. Lee Library is hosting the “Latter-day Gamers” exhibit until June 2023.

The exhibit features games with themes from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, each representing a unique part of Church members’ history.

Associate librarian Trevor Alvord, curator of “21st Century Latter-day Saint Movements & Western Americana,” started preparing for the 900-square foot exhibit back in 2015, when he discovered a collection of games in the library as he was preparing for a presentation.

Over the following seven years, he began collecting games, and going to Deseret Industries and other thrift stores in search of more old games. “It’s amazing and astonishing just to see what the cultural impact is,” Alvord said.

Alvord said the games have “historical research value” to scholars and historians. He said future historians can examine these games to understand the culture of Church members.

Roger Layton, communications and PR manager for the HBLL, said he believes the older board games in the collection are fascinating. “Everyone knows how big board cames are in Latter-day Saint culture, so it seemed a natural fit,” he said.

The O.C. Tanner Exhibition Room houses two video game consoles, a table top with eight different games to choose from and an Atari with a TV positioned near the back of the room. Roughly 30-35 games are up on the walls, with a similar number of other games stored in cases around the room.

Dainan Skeem, 21st Century Manuscripts and Special Collections department chair and curator, pointed out a large blackboard with high scores written in chalk. Skeem said the inspiration behind the board was the old style arcade cabinets that would have the initials of high-scoring players displayed for other players to see.

HBLL exhibits manager Eric Howard designed the room with people in mind. They consider themselves “multi-sensory designers” who use music, sight and touch to complete the mood and feel of the space.

BYU student Amy Ottinger, an assistant exhibit designer, agreed that games are a large part of the Church culture. The games on display “show our past, but modernize it.” Ottinger asked herself, “What would a gamer have?” and helped design the space accordingly.

“I feel like we put a lot of work into the details, so I kinda want people to notice those things,” West said, pointing out the Tetris lights and the wallpaper design.

Alvord said, “At the end of the day, as cool as they are, they’re really about us, they’re a reflection of us as a Latter-day Saint society.” With the exhibit open to the public until June 2023, students and library patrons are able to explore that reflection and learn more about Latter-day gamers.

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