Game Library Camp – #GameLibCamp17


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:

  1. Free & easy to use digital game making tools.
  2. 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:

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).

Free Game Library Camp – 12th August


I’m involved in organising a free 1/2 day game themed Library Camp at the British Library on 12th August.

If you’ve got any interest in the overlap between libraries and games (board, video, card, physical, games for learning, playing or making games etc etc etc) it’s well worth attending and will be a great opportunity to share ideas and discuss games in libraries with others passionate about these things.

Here’s the site for Game Library Camp with more details:


#Odysseyjam – an interactive fiction writing challenge


For Read Watch Play we’re running Odyssey Jam, an interactive fiction writing challenge focused on Homer’s The Odyssey. It’s open to all – whether you’re an experienced interactive fiction writer or not. The deadline for submissions is 27th March, and it’s been great following the #odysseyjam hashtag on Twitter – so many interesting interpretations of the theme being shared on there. If you want to get involved follow the link below. I’m really looking forward to trying out the entries one the deadline has passed.

More free #LibraryAtoZ greeting cards


The #LibraryAtoZ project has more free greeting  cards to distribute. So, at this time of year it would be a great opportunity to send them as an extra special festive greeting to your local library funders etc and remind them of why we love our libraries. Or maybe you’d like to use them in another way to spread the message about the value of public libraries. That’s fine too.

If you would like some sent to you for free please fill in the contact form on the Library A to Z site.


#Mozfest fun


I attended Mozfest last Sunday — what a great event. There was so many sessions covering a wide variety of tech related topics, but I actually only attended one session apart from the session I ran with Stella Wisdom. I spent an hour building circuits with copper wire, sticky LEDs, battery, paper and pens — at the end of which I had a dragon whose eyes glowed when you pressed its belly button.

Explore Mozillafestival’s photos on Flickr. Mozillafestival has uploaded 2082 photos to

This session was a great example of where creativity and technology overlapped, and its something that would be perfect for a library Makerspace session. In fact there were lots of sessions in the Youthzone and beyond that would be perfect for a makerspace session. Plenty of Raspberry Pi sessions too, quite a few being run by children and young people. Even though I didn’t attend many sessions I spent most of my time talking to other attendees about what they were doing there, sharing ideas and also about what we are doing in Surrey Libraries in relation to this sort of activity.

The session Stella and I ran went well — it was focused on introducing people to interactive fiction, and was a bit of a lighting fast approach. A short intro to interactive fiction (including examples and a quick read through of a handful of Choose your own adventure books), plus about 20 minutes hands-on with Twine and Squiffy — free software you can use to create interactive fiction with. The age range of the attendees was from about 7 to mid-30s, and we had positive feedback at the end of it. One of the interesting things for me was that attendees raised the potential of using the software for things like interactive video storyboarding and simple app development, as both Squiffy and Twine output stories as html and Javascript.

If anyone’s interested in how we organised the session and notes we used,here’s a link to the handouts, simple session plan and example stories created in both Squiffy and Twine.

Thanks to the YouthZone organisers, particularly Dorine Flies for encouraging me to get involved. It was well worth it.

(This was originally posted on Medium)

Running an interactive fiction session at #Mozfest #Youthzone


I’m heading to the Mozilla festival this weekend and am running an interactive fiction workshop with Stella Wisdom from The British Library in the Youth Zone.

I thought it was a great opportunity to show the sort of things that libraries are involved in away from the library space. There are also a handful of other library staff from around the country who’ll be running other fun/interesting sessions over the course of the weekend, and I’m sure I’ll come away with ideas from other sessions that touch on libraries core role/functions – plenty of ones on copyright, digital rights, and informal learning for example. Plenty of other sessions with a more techy and creative focus as well, including robots, virtual reality, performance, coding, making and crafting.

Here’s some more details about my session.

Mozfest looks like it’s going to be fun.

Multimedia PhDs – Digital Conversations at The British Library


I attended an interesting event last night at The British Library focused on PhDs that consisted of a variety of multimedia outputs and not just a standard 10,000 word thesis, and the issues this raised when submitting them as research.

All 3 PhDs discussed had very creative elements to them.

Craig Hamilton’s Harkive music focused on the experience of popular music.

Imogen Lesser covered the architectural make up and language of Gormenghast and other Mervyn Peake work.

Tara Copplestone focused on games as an output of archeological work.

Below are the live streams of the session.

One thing I thought of during the session was… even if the researchers can’t submit all the multimedia aspects of their research as part of their PhDs there’s still a huge opportunity to share these outputs with the wider population. All 3 of these research projects have such a wide popular fan base appeal – down to the nature of the subjects they are focused on – that it seems they could have a life beyond their original remit. For example, Imogen Lesser had already created an exhibition of her research including grand scale architect drawings and maps of Mervyn Peake’s world that fans of his work could enjoy too.

Can’t these outputs be made use of and spread the word about this research in a way that will get each of the thesis discovered by more than a handful of academics? I personally found each of these research projects so interesting and creative that they deserve a wider audience.