Thursday, 11 December 2014

Gamification in the library

I attended a great talk organised by ISLN yesterday evening.  Scott Nicholson from Syracuse University came to talk about gaming in the library context.

Firstly he disabused us of the notion of gamers as teen or older blokes transfixed to screens in a smelly hormonal environment and introduced the vast array of games that exist in the physical and digital world ranging from Pac-man to monopoly to cosplay to interactive fiction and everything in-between.

The idea is that games are an entry point for engagement and a way of formalising play.

In the case of libraries a number of things need to be taken into account

  • Time available (including set up, play and clean up)
  • number of players
  • space availability
  • how it fits in the library mission
  • format - formal program / informal / games to check out etc.

One of the aspects highlighted was the use of games in teaching students information literacy or familiarity with the library. Unfortunately, despite a considerable amount of effort in this area, particularly in library scavenger hunts (which he was somewhat dismissive of) he did not have much positive to report.   A few of the projects mentioned included BiblioBouts (successful but no longer supported), Find Chesia (alternate reality game to encourage summer reading) Blood on the stacks (mystery game).

He then mentioned some important concerns around motivation and the use of awards, rewards and badges and pointed us to some books and research:

Another problem he pointed out with gamification was the issue of privacy, and he game the example of LemonTree.

Games can be incorporated in the curriculum, not only by having students play games (Where in the world is Carmen Sandiego? and Civilization V was mentioned) but also a by allowing students to create their own games whereby they have to think very carefully about the most important aspects of a topic, writing a backstory, using physical materials or programming.

Finally the RECIPE for success and meaningful gamification is:
reflection, exposition, choice, information, play and engagement (this is explained in the video on his website).

A few of the resources he mentioned:

Because Play Matters - his website with a blog and information on all aspects of play and gaming and his book "Everyone plays in the library - creating great game experiences for all ages".
And his video series: Board Games with Scott

Carla Casilli - writes and researches about the use (and abuse) of badges as a reward system or pathway illuminator in education and elsewhere.

Crossed Paths -  a free multi-player improvisational storytelling game he developed.  For 5+ players with no maximum.

Twine - a way of exploring interactive fiction with a range of outcomes and learn some coding at the same time.

Playnation - a game cafe in Singapore with 200 designer board and card games and 100 console games

Settlers Cafe - a game cafe with over 600 game titles - and a special ladies night!

Just Press Play - a very innovate way to get students at Rochester Institute of Technology to interact and socialise and play with each other and engage in their environment.  This would be one of the things that schools could consider for incoming students and teachers.

National museum of play Rochester NY - play museum with library embedded!  Books in each section that visitors to the library could take and check out when leaving.

GVLibraries - how cool is this: "As a part of the Game Library's services, you can schedule time with Brian Mayer ( to come work with you and your class to provide successful learning and growth experiences with the various game resources within our library. Examples include: in class project and unit support through the use of game resources, game design programs demonstrating practical applications of curricular skills and concepts, life skills and curricular support, and extra-curricular or activities." 

The rest of us will have to make do with his book: Libraries got Game

Find the Future - an overnight adventure game and an ongoing online game, inspired by 100 works from the collections of The New York Public Library designed by Jane McGonigal.

Here is Jane McGonigal at her TED talk

And here is the talk by Scott Nicholson at TEDx.

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