#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.

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#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. 🙂

List of Library and Book APIs on Programmable Web #mashlib

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List of Library and Book APIs on Programmable Web #mashlib

Programmable Web have published an article about the library and book APIs/mashups listed on their site – 49 APIs in total are listed. It gives details of what each of the APIs do and the data formats and communication protocols they use. Handy information for the Mashed Library community.