Why not get involved in a literary game jam #AliceJam150

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In my recent blog post focusing on computer games and interactive fiction for storytelling I mentioned Alice Jam 150, which is an online game development competition open for anyone to enter.

This year is the 150th anniversary of the publication of Alice in Wonderland, so with my part time game-maker and full-time librarian hats on I thought it would be a fun idea to set up this computer/video-game jam based around an Alice in Wonderland theme.

It has it’s own page on the Game Jolt site, called Alice Jam 150, and runs from 11.59pm, 26th June 2015 for a week until midnight on 3rd July.

The rules of the game jam are:

  1. Base your game on the Alice in Wonderland book or characters
  2. Include the mystery theme (this will be announced at the beginning of the jam)
  3. Create the game within the jam period, including any graphics and audio
  4. Entries can be from individuals or teams
  5. Upload your game to Game Jolt and tag it with #alicejam150

I wanted to keep the rules simple and open to encourage as many entries as possible, and it’s open to anyone at all who wants to create a game. Your Alice Jam 150 game can be created using any software and if you’re on Game Jolt you can link to it using the hashtag #alicejam150 when you upload your game to the site.

Even if you’re not on Game Jolt and want to get involved, you can by adding a link to any game you create in the comments section of this blog post, and/or tweet it with the hashtag #AliceJam150.

Even if you’ve never made a game before and aren’t a programmer there are a few free tools here that you can use that don’t require you to be a programmer.

I’m also very pleased that the creators of Pocket Code are getting behind this game jam, especially as I’m a big fan of Pocket Code. Pocket Code users can now turn their programs into Android apps, making it easier for them to get involved.

There aren’t any prizes for entering the game jam, but hopefully people will like the idea of taking the original Alice in Wonderland story/characters and turning them into something new, engaging, original and fun.

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#CityMash 2 – My session on storytelling via interactive fiction & digital games

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At the #CityMash event yesterday I ran a session about storytelling through digital games and interactive fiction. I’ve written about some of this in the past on the Read Watch Play blog, and I’ve wanted to explore the idea of how libraries could play a role in digital storytelling in this way for some time. Specifically I’m thinking about how libraries could run sessions to create stories in this way – sessions that could bring writers and game makers together. This is the presentation I gave.

Transcript:

1. Storytelling / interactive fiction / games: Gary Green –Surrey Library Service Twitter: @ggnewed #CityMash, City University London (13th June 2015)

2. Aim – discuss & share ideas about: • Interactive fiction / using computer games for storytelling • Their value to libraries & library users • Games with storytelling as a core thread • Storytelling in games doesn’t necessarily have to be focused on text alone • Free tools for creating games with strong storytelling/narrative thread in them… without being a programmer • 3 game competitions with an Alice in Wonderland theme

3. I.F. & computer games used to tell a story: • Turns passive reading experience into an active one • Choose your own adventure… sort of • You direct the progress of the story • Can be focused just on text, but not only • I.F. aren’t necessarily games, but serve to tell a story

  • Screenshot: ‘Get Lamp’ Documentary

4. Screenshot taken from text adventure ‘Colour of Magic’ by Delta 4. The game is played by entering text to direct progress of the story. For example, in this section, the player might type in “Go Hubward” or “Go Turnwise” to move to a new location in the game world.

5. ‘Spent’ is an interesting example of a game using a storytelling method to highlight issues around poverty. This type of game could be regarded as similar to the Human Library concept. It appears on the Games for Change site, which features games containing social awareness themes.

6. This is an example of a free tool called Quest, that anyone can download and use to create their own interactive fiction or text adventure games. The screenshot is taken from the game ‘Whitefield Academy of Witchcraft’.

7. Value to libraries & library users: • Represent traditional stories & curate them in new ways • Encourage users to discover new ways of storytelling • Use storytelling to encourage development of IT skills • Use beyond fictional storytelling – human library concept

  • Screenshot: Empire Strikes Back themed Donkey Kong created with Donkey Me

8. This screenshot is taken from ‘Dys4ia’ and focuses on the real-life experiences of Anna Anthropy. It’s an interesting example of creating a narrative game with limited focus on text and also storytelling in games going beyond fiction. In Anna’s own words: “dys4ia is the story of the last six months of my life: when i made the decision to start hormone replacement therapy and began taking estrogen. i wanted to catalog all the frustrations of the experience and maybe create an ‘it gets better’ for other trans women. when i started working on the game, though, i didn’t know whether it did get better.”

9. ‘The Tell tale heartbeatz’ by Daniel Mullins won the 2015 Public domain game jam. It’s based on a section of text from an Edgar Allan Poe story. It highlights that text based stories can be interpreted in new ways, whilst still keeping to the original idea behind the story. In this case this is a rhythm based game focusing on the main character’s goal to “rid myself of the old man… but time was running out.”

10.  Interactive Fiction Database – directory of published I.F. works, inc some based on: • J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle Earth • Other book characters, including Sherlock Holmes, Alice in Wonderland, Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy, Spider-Man • Film, TV and Radio tie-ins, including Dallas, Rambo and The Archers BBC radio programme • Star Wars • Jaws!

11. Never Alone is an example of using storytelling in a visual form to share the experiences of a different culture in a game. The developers say: “We paired world class game makers with Alaska Native storytellers and elders to create a game which delves deeply into the traditional lore of the Iñupiat people to present an experience like no other.”

12. Free tools for creating interactive fiction & text based games/stories: Inform 7 • Twine • Quest • Choice of games • Inklewriter

  • Free tools for creating other games: GDevApp • Stencyl • Sploder • GameSalad • Construct 2

13. Fallen London http://fallenlondon.storynexus.com is set in a fictional London in what seems like a pseudo Victorian period. It combines text stories with visuals, interaction between players and users can also create their own stories using the StoryNexus software.

14. Alice in Wonderland 150th anniversary game competition/jams: • A jam is a game creation competition usually run over defined time period & with specific theme • Off The Map (open to higher education students) – organised by Game City/British Library • Alice game jam (for Pocket Code users) – December 2015 * • Alice Jam 150 #AliceJam150 (open to all) – End of June 2105 *

15. Links mentioned & other useful ones: http://bit.ly/citymashstory

16. Ideas raised in discussion during the session • Text based games encourages development of literacy, reading, creation and creative writing skills. • How does it impact on digital literacy skills? • Games with varied characters & story backgrounds encourages understanding of diverse cultures & people. • There could be a good opportunity to develop collaborative physical game- making communities in libraries, with a focus on storytelling & games. • Sometimes text in games is skipped to get to the ‘fun stuff’, but those coming to a text based game knowing that it’s text based are happy to read. • It enables knowledge sharing – through the subject of the game (e.g. human library, Never alone etc.) & also knowledge of how to create games. • How can digital storytelling be connected to physical activities too? Maybe via creative Makerspace sessions?

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It was extremely useful to discuss ideas with those who attended my session, and the feedback I received about it was really positive and encouraging – so I’m very keen to try some of these ideas out soon.

Edit: I’ve put together a Storify of the Twitter discussion about this #CityMash session.

#CityMash 1 – #MashLib Always fun and always useful

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I attended #CityMash at City University yesterday. It was a Mashed Libraries unconference. Mashed Libraries events focus on the sharing of ideas about technology in libraries, and whenever I attend one it is always fun and it is always useful. Yesterday’s event was no exception.

The day was split up into short 1 hour sessions, with generally more than 1 session running at a time. Some of them were practical how-to sessions, others were discussions.

Here’s a brief run-down of the sessions I attended.

UX for the Win! (Andrew Preater & Karine Larose): This was a practical session focused on a specific methodology of interviewing users about their use of a library system (specifically the search functionality and identifying useful resources), identifying key themes that occur and making use of that information to develop the system. Once I’d got my head around the concept I could see that this would be a useful tool for developing my own library service catalogue.

So you want to be a systems librarian? (Anna Brynolf): This session focused on Anna’s experience of becoming and being a systems librarian. Even though my job focus doesn’t lie in that direction it was interesting to listen to, and it opened up the discussion about routes to becoming a systems librarian and the changing focus of systems librarians over the years, as well as how this role might develop in future in different types of libraries.

Death and burlesque (Matt Finch): This session focused more on the creative side of libraries and related themes eg reading, literacy, community and collaboration. Matt talked about his work with libraries throughout the world. Things like Zombie fights in the library; short stories on coffee cups; @FunPalaces initiatives (ie getting the public in to make creative responses about library, museum and archive collections); collaborations between libraries and book shops on comic store day; wine-tasting sessions in a library, including a discussion via the web with the wine-maker. I have to say Matt shared so many ideas that I just thought “Wow! We should be doing this in our library service.”

Maker Cart (Carlos Iszak): Makerspaces in libraries is an idea that has been around for a few years now. It gives people the opportunity to create, learn and develop skills collaboratively – this might involve things like building robots, developing IT skills using creative and fun tools, 3D printing. The Maker cart concept fits in with the idea that some libraries might want to run makerspaces, but don’t have the space or financial resources to do this. The Maker cart is a set of resources on a small trolley that contains kit for I suppose the equivalent of a pop up makerspace, along with resource books to help people create/make things. I really like the idea of being able to set aside space in a library as a temporary makerspace, encourage people to come in and then you just wheel out the maker cart and away you go.

I also ran a session on using games for digital storytelling and am really pleased with the feedback I received a bout it – there’ll be another blog post about that after this one.

As well as attending the sessions, it’s great to be able to share ideas with others who attended and I always feel there is a great buzz at a Mashed library event – lots of people making new connections and getting inspired by it all.

I spoke to Owen Stephens while there – he came up with the idea of the first Mashed Library event – and I was reflecting on the fact that if I hadn’t been to my first Mashed Library event in 2009 (I think) I wouldn’t be doing half the things I’m doing now in both my day job and my life outside of work. Mashed Libraries actually gave me the confidence to get out and do stuff instead of just thinking about doing it…. Mashed Libraries, you have a lot to answer for. :-)

Yahoo Pipes Retires… | OUseful.Info, the blog…

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http://blog.ouseful.info/2015/06/04/yahoo-pipes-retires/

I’m also not surprised Yahoo Pipes is closing down.

Out of all my uses for Yahoo Pipes I think the key ones I have to work out how to move over somewhere else are the feeds that go into my library jobs, Surrey Mix, Hot Poppi apps and also the combined feed of the library blogs.

Most of this information is centred around combining RSS feeds, filtering them and generating an RSS output.

I might be able to do this with one of the IFTTT alternatives I posted about a while ago, or maybe I’ll actually just end up doing some programming myself to resolve it.

I’ve seen a couple of suggestions for a replacement for Yahoo Pipes, but it looks like they involve some programming themselves and fiddly setups. If that’s the case I’d rather stick to the programming tools I already know and resolve it that way.

Library A to Z : Crowd-sourced advocacy presentation for CILIP Cymru Wales 2015

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I gave the following presentation at the recent CILIP Cymru Wales 2015 Library & Information Conference. The abridged text of my presentation appears below the presentation itself.

1.

Hello my name is Gary Green & I am going to talk to you about a library advocacy project I have been involved with called The Library A to Z.

This is a project that primarily myself and Andrew Walsh, a librarian at Huddersfield University, pulled together, but as the title suggests its success also depended on others being involved and supporting it in a variety of ways.

2.

What is the Library A to Z?

  • It’s both an advocacy tool & promotional material
  • Highlights that libraries are not only about books
  • Visual A to Z of library services & benefits in a variety of formats
  • Emphasises the continued importance of libraries

3.

The original idea came about because through my involvement with Voices for the Library in particular. I was constantly seeing these sort of questions. We all know why libraries are important, but there didn’t seem to be anything out there that highlighted the importance of libraries beyond the “libraries are just about books” idea. Yes, books are a core part of the service, but libraries provide access to many other things too.

4.

So how did we get from “nothing” to the Library A to Z? It involved a few key stages-

  • At Library Camp East (Sept 2013) I ran a session to crowd-source A to Z list of library services and benefits of libraries. About 20 people from different library backgrounds sat around for an hour and discussed it. Then I wrote it up, posted it on the Voices for the Library site and encouraged library supporters to make us of it. But I also wanted to turn it into something more than a list of words.
  • I attended Library Camp (Autumn 2013) & Andy Walsh was there – I talked to Andy about doing something creative with the list & the idea of a book came up. So the idea was there but we didn’t really discuss it again until March/April the next year.
  • Then we had the next stage, the Kickstarter (April/May 2014). Andy came up with the idea of a Kickstarter project to fund the production of illustrations and materials related to the A to Z. 155 people and organisations (mostly individuals) raised £4,500+ to fund the project, inc. £1,500 from our key sponsor the Library Campaign.
  • It was launched in Nov 2014 – i.e. the physical materials were made freely available to anyone.

5.

Even though Andy and I led on pulling the A to Z together, without a lot of people supporting the project at various stages it would have been difficult to make as much progress as we did with it. This includes:

  • Pulling together the original A to Z list
  • Backers of the Kickstarter
  • Supporters of the fund raising drive
  • Pulling together content for A to Z, especially Voices for the Library team for book content
  • Supporters of the launch
  • Those who have made continued use of the materials produced

6.

I’d like to talk about the Kickstarter now, as this was a key part of making things a success.

  • A Kickstarter is a way to get your project funded quickly by anyone who feels the project is worthy enough. Take a look at Kickstarter.com for details. All you need to do is set up a page on the site providing details of your project.
  • We stated our aims & goals inc when we planned to launch
  • We identified stretch goals i.e. what we would do if we got more funds than our minimum goal
  • We asked for pledges via social media, blogs and library mailing lists and sites
  • We gave people rewards for pledging funds – from a mention in the book, to free cards & books and more say into what happened with the materials e.g. who send out to
  • We told people about the deadlines we were aiming for – i.e. when the project would be completed and launched
  • It took effort to sustain the fundraising drive – we couldn’t just send out 1 tweet & email a library discussion list once and expect it to be a success & be funded instantly. There were lots of mentions by other people on mailing lists, social media sites and I know emails were being sent around behind the scenes to likely backers.
  • We had 155 backers – many were individuals backing the project. We also had some organisations, including our key sponsor Library Campaign, who really helped us meet our stretch goals. Our minimum goal was to raise £2,000 in 4 weeks, but we raised just over £4,500 in that time.

7.

  • The £4,500 funded the production of physical materials for distribution, which all focused around a set of full colour illustrations by Josh Filhol. All the illustrations in the presentation are by Josh.
  • Key intention is for people to use and adapt and develop promotional and advocacy material using the illustrations. Anyone can download and use the material
  • We distributed packs to key stakeholders mostly in the UK, but also contacted international library organisations (IFLA) and E.U. politicians with an interest in libraries.
  • As well as backers based in the UK we also had backers from Europe, Australia & North America.

8.

How did we organise the project?

  • Andy came up with idea for Kickstarter and set it up & asked Josh Filhol to create the
  • We decided on our aims/goals for the project i.e. what we wanted to achieve
  • We thought about things we could use the illustrations for
  • Andy sorted out publishing of books and cards
  • We put together the book chapter and content with the help of Voices for the Library
  • We promoted the Kickstarter in our different networks e.g. Twitter, Facebook, Google Plus, mailing lists
  • Came up with lists of politicians and library friendly media/press contacts to send packs to, and also library friendly supporters to help promote the launch
  • Andy sent out the majority of the packs
  • We set up a website and place to download the materials from

9.

This example is taken from the book.

  • Each double page spread in the book included the words for each letter, plus a quote related to that word taken from blog posts on the Voices for the Library site, plus a full page illustration.
  • The idea for the quotes was to get the words of real life users/library staff to get the message across about how libraries can make an impact on an individuals life.
  • The book also included a chapter on the value of libraries, which includes facts/figures, links to impact studies, etc.

10.

  • We officially launched the Library A to Z in November 2014
  • When we launched a lot of supporters got behind us and helped.
  • Supporters included many library & information workers & advocates for libraries, library & information students, Arts Council England, library campaigners inc Library Campaign.
  • The launch focused on both a social media/mailing list push and the sending out of physical materials.
  • During the launch week packs, including the books & cards, were sent out to over 100 key influencers inc politicians at national level (UK MPs, party leaders, & shadow ministers, House of Lords representatives, library committee members). The aim was to remind them that libraries still do exist and have so much to offer. Ultimately the aim is to encourage continued support and investment in library services.
  • We also sent packs to around 30 media organisations. The intention was to spread the positive Library A to Z message that libraries continue to remain relevant.
  • We didn’t just want it to be an online launch. Yes, it would have been easier to do just online promotion, but we felt that sending out physical materials was more likely to get someone’s attention than a link to materials/website in an email
  • We informed our supporters about the launch plan & encouraged them to get involved – many also sent out materials to their local politicians and library stakeholders
  • Encouraged supporters (library staff & supporters) to download materials & use for promotion & advocacy and spread the word about the LibraryAtoZ
  • During launch week we used the hashtag #LibraryAtoZ on Twitter and had 1,000+ mentions and retweets on Twitterand over 20 blogs and news sites mentioning it.
  • Speak Up For libraries held a conference on the last day of the launch and we were able to gave free Library A to Z materials out to those who attended, including politicians from major parties attending.

11.

What free materials are available?

  • Illustrations by Josh Filhol – we wanted them to be fun whilst getting an important message out there
  • Book (print and e-book) – inc all illustrations and words, and relevant quotes from Voices for the Library site.
  • Greetings cards
  • Posters – editable Adobe Illustrator files and sample PDF files. The posters are intended to be most effective when edited and details of local library services, events etc. are added to them.
  • Unless otherwise stated, these materials can be downloaded and freely re-used under a creative commons licence (cc by 4.0), so please re-use, adapt and take full advantage of them, as long as you credit the original creators.

12.

What are the plans for the future?

  • As I said, the materials are available for anyone to download & use
  • The original aim of the project was to fund the creation of the materials and send out materials to promote and advocate for libraries, which we have achieved. However, the original materials were also created so that other people could adapt and re-use them in new ways. They are a free resource for others to build on.
  • The intention of creating the A to Z was not to promote the A to Z itself, but enable people to promote & advocate libraries using the Library A to Z
  • So far it’s been used in the following ways:
  • Lots of social media #libraryatoz tweets with local focus
  • Posters and promotions in public libraries, health libraries and academic libraries
  • Cards & books sent to local stakeholders
  • It has earned a Blue Peter badge
  • It’s been used as part of an A to Z blogging challenge, which made use of the original materials but also included positive quotes about libraries

13.

So that was the Library A to Z, how it came about, and what’s available. Here’s the website address again (http://libraryatoz.org) where all of the materials can be downloaded from.

Thank you for listening – on behalf of myself, Andy Walsh & everyone who has been involved in the Library A to Z along the way.

#LibraryAtoZ – The General Election

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This is just a short post to say that I’ve sent out around 80 #LibraryAtoZ cards to candidates election offices throughout the UK in the lead up to the General election. I originally intended to send them out sooner, but the difficulty was identifying which parties would be standing where. I decided to target areas/regions where I knew cuts were either happening or were being proposed. Even though public library funding is the responsibility of local authorities, having library support in your area from a possible future MP (and therefore an influencer at central government level) is important.

The Library A to Z cards focused on the usual message of “These are the great things that libraries provide”, along with a request that the candidates’ party in that region pledges their support for libraries.

An advocacy idea in the run up to the general election

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There’s a suggestion on the Voices for the Library site about raising the issue of public libraries with candidates in the run up to the general election:

Candidates will be going door-to-door over the next few weeks and we think the cuts to public libraries should be one of the issues that canvassers are confronted with on the door step. It is for this reason that we have created two posters for you to post in your windows to highlight the importance of public libraries both to the politicians out canvassing for your vote and to your friends and neighbours.

The posters can be downloaded from here.

vftlelectionposter