Last weekend, along with Darren Edwards (Bournemouth Libraries), Sarah Cole (TIME/IMAGE) & Stella Wisdom (British Library), I was involved in organising & running Game Library Camp at The British Library. On the day we had nearly 50 attendees from different sectors of the library community (public, academic, health, national, specialist) and outside of it. The discussions covered a range of topics, including:
- running different types of games events
- use of games for teaching and information literacy
- the value of game activities in a library context
- archiving games
- virtual and augmented reality.
There was also a chance to play a few games during the afternoon too.
It was a great opportunity for people to meet up and discuss ideas with others who have similar passions. About 14 sessions were run in all, and to keep the conversations going after the event we have encouraged attendees to join up to the Games & GLAMs discussion group. This online group has a broader focus of games activities in Galleries, Libraries, Archives & Museums, but there are plenty of ideas being shared in the group that cut across these different sectors.
I led on 2 sessions on the day:
- Free & easy to use digital game making tools.
- Interactive fiction – what is it and why is it relevant to libraries?
My take on both making games & interactive fiction is that they fit perfectly into the core purpose of libraries as places to share stories (regardless of whether they are fictional or factual/biographical), and as places to support literacy/readers/writers. Games & interactive fiction can also be great ways to re-purpose existing collections held in libraries in new and exciting ways.
Free & easy game making tools
In this session I wanted to highlight that if you wanted to encourage people to make games in libraries starting out with game making tools that are free & easy to use reduces the entry level for game making as a starting point. The following tools were mentioned during the session by myself and others:
- Inklewriter – create the digital equivalent of Choose Your Own Adventure
- Twine – interactive fiction tool
- Squiffy – interactive fiction tool
- Bitsy – a retro looking game maker for creating story led games
- Flickgame – make a game by draw pictures & linking them together
- Scratch – used by Code Clubs. Build games by putting together blocks of code
- Pocket Code – an Android equivalent of Scratch
- Jigsaw Planet – upload a picture and turn it into a jigsaw that others can try to put together
- H5P – this site provides a variety of web site plug ins, some of which allow you to create quizzes and memory games.
There are other free or low-cost game making tools available that allow you to create much more complex games, which are also worth exploring, but they are more complicated than the tools mentioned above. Here are some of the most popular ones.
Interactive fiction – what is it and why is it relevant to libraries?
My focus for interactive fiction in regard to libraries, is that most commonly stories in libraries exist within the pages of a printed book, but interactive fiction expands writers opportunities for sharing their stories in new digital ways. I’ve run workshops (using Inklewriter, Squiffy & Twine) on creating interactive fiction and target creative writers when promoting them. One thing I focus on is that interactive fiction fits nicely in with the core idea of libraries as places that develop literacy, reading, writing, and as places for sharing new ideas. Interactive fiction could be described as the digital equivalent of a choose your own adventure book and is the successor to computer text adventures that were most popular in the late 1970s and 1980s. I wanted to emphasise that interactive fiction doesn’t just have to be fiction – it can be factual and/or autobiographical. I’ve seen it used as a tool for creating empathy and sharing personal stories on subjects like mental health, cultural differences, and LGBT (much like the living library concept). It’s also a way that library services can re-purpose their collections. For example, making use of local history collections to create a digital story that brings a local area to life.
For inspiring examples of how collections can be re-purposed to create games and interactive fiction take a look at:
- British Library – Off The Map
- Wellcome Trust – High Tea
- The National Archives – The Great Steampunk Game Jam
Even though all 3 are high-profile organisations, you don’t necessarily need to be high-profile to get involved in these sort of activities. For example, I’ve run online events that encouraged writers and game developers to get involved in making games with a literary twist – Alice Jam 150 (Alice in Wonderland); Bard Jam (Shakespeare); and Odyssey Jam (Homer’s epic tale).
I really enjoyed the event – it was a great opportunity to meet others with a similar passion, and to help develop the network of people with an interest in games in libraries.
And don’t forget to start planning for International Games Week @ Your Library (29th October – 4th November).