Geek Week at the Library

Standard

We’ve just finished a great week of events at Guildford Library under the banner of Surrey Geek Week. It tied in with British Science Week and also Innovate Guildford festival. It included events for children and adults, including robotics workshops, programmable Lego, learning sessions, Dungeons and Dragons, a gaming afternoon, a Raspberry pi jam, and a gamification talk. It’s the first time we’ve run it and it was a great opportunity to try things out to see what would work and to build links with different groups and individuals in the local community. Many of the events were a success, with sold out sessions. I was responsible for organising the robotics workshop (big thanks to Carlos and his Maker Cart, who was also key in the January Maker Day), the Gaming Day (big thanks to the staff who worked on a Sunday and also local gaming groups who came along with board games and retro consoles), and the Maplin Meccanoid drop-in (big thanks to Maplin – a couple of robots in the library got a lot of attention).

During the week we’ve made plenty of contacts with groups interested in what we are trying to do in the library service in regard to digital services and making. eg 3D printing, robotics, electronics, and anything techy based that give people the opportunity to create.
It was a fun week, even though I do generally wear my anxious Wurzel Gummidge style “will it go okay, will anyone turn up and will they enjoy it?” head on when I’m organising events. Well, they did turn up and going by the smiles and positive feedback they did enjoy it, so now I can put on my Wurzel Gummidge “happy head”.
A concentrated week of events and related activities was a bit of a learning experience, but I think the whole team did a great job of organising, promoting, and making sure it all ran well.

International Games Day at The British Library

Standard

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.

image

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.

image

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.

image

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

Standard

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?

———————————————————————–

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.

Making Games for Libraries Workshop

Standard

A few weeks ago I attended a workshop focused on making games for libraries run by Andy Walsh. The idea behind the workshop is to produce games used for information literacy instruction. As I am running a session at PI and Mash in August to introduce people to the Pocket Code programming environment and give them ideas for producing a library game, I thought it would be a good opportunity to get a bit more focused.

The workshop gave us a brief introduction to different types of games that we could make; the tools you can use and game design, concepts, mechanics, goals/aims and rules; and how to progress through the design stages logically. Andy provided a range of materials eg blank cards; dice; spinners; pens; blank boards, etc and we were split into small groups to actually prototype a game. I thought this was a tall order for a 4 hours session, but all of the groups managed it. It seemed as if you kept the end focus in sight it was a lot easier than I expected. As an aside, this is something I’ll be keeping in mind when I’m creating my little computer games, as they tend to go off in random directions.

My group created a prototype for a classification based card game. The end goal being something that would improve people’s understanding of classification. It was called “Dewey or Die” and was based around the idea of collecting a set or run of similar Dewey classification playing cards.

This video explains the rules.

Here are the prototype set of lovingly created hand-drawn cards (possibly a collectors edition in future).

Prototype cards for Dewey or Die classification game

Prototype cards for Dewey or Die classification game

There were 5 games prototyped during the workshop and it was interesting to see the areas the other teams focused on and how they put their games together. They can all be found on Andy’s Making Games in Libraries blog.

I found the workshop enjoyable and fun and the ideas behind it are something I’ll be using in future.

Education And Games = Unfun Games #DigitalSurrey

Standard

I attended an event organised by Digital Surrey last night. The speaker was one of the original programmers behind the game M.U.D., Richard Bartle.  His focus this evening was trying to predict what virtual massively multiplayer online (M.M.O.) game worlds might be like in 2022. He gave us various scenarios, some positive and others negative and it was all very interesting seeing how things might turn out, but the but one thing that really got me thinking was his comment that Edutainment doesn’t equal fun education, it equals unfun games

I can see what he’s saying. I remember receiving “French is fun” with my MSX computer back in the mid 1980s. LIES! It might have been fun if the game consisted of throwing onions at blocky images of The Eiffel Tower that exclaimed “Mon dieu” or “Zut alors” every time you hit it… but unfortunately all it did was try to give you French lessons… Which wasn’t fun at all, despite the fact that I wanted to learn French.

Edutainment! by Videocrab Flickr

Edutainment! (c) Videocrab/Flickr

After Richard’s Edutainment comment and with my “Libraries give information” hat on, I’ve got some thoughts going around my head – wondering if virtual games can/could successfully educate by providing information subtly as an integral part of the game? For example, if you’re playing a game set in a fantasy world based around ancient Egyptian mythology could you drop in facts about ancient Egypt as part of the narrative if it didn’t impinge on the game play? Or actually include those facts as part of the game play? Would the player think “Hang on a minute. Someone’s trying to teach me something here!”? If it’s true that serious M.M.O. game players get engrossed in the game, wouldn’t their immersion in the virtual world work in the educators favour? Wouldn’t the gamer take in those facts readily in a willingness to be enveloped in the story, or if they believed remembering the facts were essential to progress through the game? But then again, if you’re giving gamers facts and fantasy in the same world could they also equate the fantasy as fact too? Could the division between fantasy and reality be blurred and any value that the factual parts have be undone by the misinformation of the fantasy? I suppose if that was the case you could also say that “The Mummy” film was also giving out confusing information and messing with our heads… On one hand it talks about known Pharoah’s and other ancient Egyptian facts, and on the other it raises them from the dead to wreak chaos! I’m not sure many people believe The Mummy to be an accurate account of Egyptian history.

So, what information could you plonk in there and how could you do it so it was disguised as part of the fun? Could you do it so that it was genuinely part of the fun, not just disguised as it? How far could you take it before someone realised it was no fun any more and had become edutainment? And, if you were devising the game for edutainment purposes, would you already be involved in a losing battle, because games are for playing and your primary purpose in this instance is serving up the information, not playing the game?