International Games Day at The British Library


Last Saturday was International Games Day @ Your Library and I was lucky enough to help organise the free event at The British Library. We were going for an Alice in Wonderland theme in general (although we had many games that weren’t themed around Alice), as the Alice exhibition at the library had only opened the day before – it was a good tie-in and gave us a focus.


The event included a huge range of tabletop games provided by board game enthusiasts, and computer games from both the British Library/Game City Off The Map competition (including Gyre and Gimble’s game) , and games from Alice Jam 150. We had planned to run a couple of Pocket Code/Paint sessions to show people how to create Alice game art and a game in an hour and to tie in with this Pocket Code Alice game jam in December. In the end we only ran the Game Making with Pocket Code session (lack of attendees) with a couple of people. Even though it would have been nicer to have more people attend, I still enjoyed running it and I think those attending enjoyed it too. Everything else went down very well – we must have had 100+ people come along on the day and many stayed and played for a while. Having tabletop game enthusiasts who could show other volunteers and anyone who came along how to play the games was important. Having Gyre and Gimble there to talk about their game was great too, especially as they received such positive feedback about it. It was also fun to watch other people try out the Alice Jam 150 games – again, all of which got positive feedback. The most popular was Down the rabbit hole.


As well as the main event we also ran gaming sessions on Friday and Saturday evening as part of the Alice late event – again, the sessions were extremely popular and I’m sure we must have had at least another 100 participants across both nights too.

As well as having fun, it was a great learning experience for me in so many ways, and I had the chance to meet and talk to an interesting group of people helping out at the event – including sharing ideas about Pocket Code. It was yet another event that I came away from buzzing with ideas.

Well done to Stella Wisdom as the main organiser who pulled it all together, and to everyone else who played a part in helping out.


International Games Day @ Your Library – 21st November



I’m really looking forward to the British Library event as I’ve been helping organise it. It will also include a game making session using Pocket Code for Android to tie in with an upcoming Pocket Code game jam. Hopefully I’ll see some of you there – please spread the word that it’s happening.

Originally posted on Read Watch Play:


November 21st is International Games Day @ Your Library. As the name suggest, it’s all about libraries around the world holding game related events (table-top and video games). Any library can be involved – all you have to do is visit the official website and submit details of the event at your library.

The site includes some great ideas about what games you could play or make for the day, including Minecraft Hunger Games sessions and the Global Gossip game, which involves libraries from around the world participating in an event together. You can theme your game event if you want to. For example, the British Library is running a free event focused on Alice in Wonderland, as it ties in with the 150th anniversary of the publication of the book and an Alice exhibition that opens in the library on the same weekend.

So, why not organise some…

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Biographical Digital Storytelling


Recently I’ve had a couple of opportunities to discuss ideas about digital storytelling in relation to libraries. I’m not thinking about stories in books or solely about stories as fiction, but other possibilities. I touched on part of it in a recent blog post about storytelling in games, but I’m thinking even broader than that.

Firstly, I attended an event at the British Library as part of meetup for people interested in interactive narratives tied in with Sherlock Holmes and the internet of things. This session divided those attending into small groups who had to build up a murder mystery using online media, linked to RFID tags and a hand drawn scene. Each team created clues from images/video/sound on the internet, gave them descriptions, drew a crime scene, added individual clues to each RFID tag, placed them at relevant points on the crime scene and then passed the crime scene to another team to figure out the crime based on the clues.
This was an interesting and fun idea in itself – the idea of being involved in creating, telling and discovering a story – all linked together in the process.

The discussion in the pub afterwards was interesting too. I met someone (a photographer and filmmaker) from my hometown and we got talking about various digital storytelling ideas we’d been involved in. I got thinking about a little digital project I’d put together a few years ago – a biographical map featuring key locations in my life and I wondered if there was any scope in developing this map and opening it up to others so they could add their own history to an area. A sort of very personal local and social history. Local history is often built on personal narratives and stories and it would be a way to build up a idea of the location, one that broader history resources don’t always cover. People could add their own text, videos, images, sound recordings and others would be able to access them too. Now I’ve managed to work with live data in Processing I’m thinking this might be possible.

Secondly I visited DOK Library in Delft. This made great use of 2 large touch screen digital tables. One focusing on local history maps and images and another focusing on multimedia stories created by library users – some of the stories created were fiction and some were focused on the importance of libraries in library users lives. These digital tables highlighted that some people want to and are willing to share their stories with people who have a shared connection, and that some people are interested in reading those stories. Using an interactive storytelling experience is also a fun way of drawing people’s attention to those stories.

Both of those sessions have given me an incentive to work at my original idea.

A #bl_labs Game Jam Idea


[Edit: I managed to get the game below finished – it’s a work in progress – but I didn’t finish in time to enter the jam. The game “60 second Art Heist” can be downloaded here. ]

I was hoping to get involved in the British Library game jam that’s happening this week, but my programming skills let me down. I couldn’t get past a problem that meant I was able to download all the images from Flickr as the program was running – some of them loaded, others didn’t. Anyway, I still like the idea I was aiming for, so I thought I’d share it…

It would have been called something like “Art Thief” and the idea was that it would play along these lines.

The setting is a gallery with 3 framed images on the wall. All of the images are taken from the British Library’s photos on Flickr.

gallerycroppedpaintings statue

A speech bubble appears next to the art thief (who is disguised as one of the gallery’s statues), commenting that the buyer would pay handsomely for a particular type of artwork. The particular type (eg flora, portrait, architecture, cycling) is taken from a tag of one of the 3 Flickr images that is displayed on the wall.


The player positions the cursor over one of the paintings using a joystick and presses the button to select it. Up shoots a hand and nabs the selected painting.


If the player chooses an image that matches the tag in the speech bubble a bundle of money appears and their money goes up. At the same time if they get a correct tag/image combination like this their average percentage accuracy rate increases – they don’t see this. In fact they don’t know this is happening behind the scenes.

gallerycroppedpaintings stolenFor some time the process continues with changing tags and images until you’ve played the rounds enough times for the game to determine how accurate the player is at choosing the correct tag/image combinations asked of them. Until this stage all of the images presented have been tagged already, so we know which images have been tagged with what keyword. However, now untagged images are gradually added into the game. When presented with a comment such as “The buyer would pay handsomely for a “flora” artwork.” the game can determine how likely the player is to have chosen an image to match the tag based on their accuracy score. For example, if during the earlier rounds of the game they have an accuracy rate of 92%, we could suggest that any untagged items they selected later on were 92% likely to match the tag the game has asked for.

At the end of the game the untagged items url, suggested tag by the player and their % accuracy score could be stored in a csv file along with other players scores/suggested tags.

For added variety more images could be shown at the same time. The player might also be against the clock, or avoiding moving when the gallery security guard is watching.

The British Library online game jam #bl_labs #gamejam


Exciting library / gaming crossover news… The British Library has announced that it’s running an online game jam from the 4th to 11th September.  The game jam ties in with a winning entry of the British Library Labs competition by Adam Crymble, who proposed the idea of using video/computer games to crowdsource the classification/tagging of digital images in the British Library collection. So, the game jam has been set up to encourage people to create a game that would fit this bill. Games should be created using the or similar html5 programming framework. Anyone can enter, but you must be over 18 to work with the British Library.

The British Library are also offering financial support to develop the game, plus a possible £500 prize as part of the British Library Labs Awards. As highlighted on the game jam page:

If we like what we see, we’ve set aside up to £500 (courtesy of the Andrew Mellon Foundation) to work with someone to polish their game and release it as part of our ‘Mechanical Curator Arcade Game’, a 1980s-style arcade console that we’re planning to install in the British Library this autumn.

All completed games (whether they fit the crowdsourcing theme or not) will also be eligible to enter the British Library Labs Awards, with a chance to win an additional £500 in prizes, as long as they use the British Library digital content such as the sounds and images from our open collections.

Full details of the game jam can be found on the site.

As someone with an interest in libraries and game making, I’m really excited that the British Library running this game jam and I can’t wait to see how this develops.
The British Library game jam is officially announced with an appropriate fanfare. (British Library/Flickr)

The British Library game jam is officially announced with an appropriate fanfare. (British Library/Flickr)

Why not get involved in a literary game jam #AliceJam150


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.