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Carl Cross, Derbyshire Libraries. email@example.com Cultural and Community Services Derbyshire County Council Long Eaton Library Long Eaton Derbyshire NG10 1JG +44 (0)115 9735426
Professional Biography. I have been playing games for as long as everyone else. Unlike some people I’ve never given them up. My first professional post was as a children’s specialist for Rugby Library in Warwickshire where I organised Games Workshop taster sessions and managed to secure external funding for several PlayStation2s and dance mats for the library. Since moving to Derbyshire in 2006 I have organised a manga reading group and helped to start a Games Workshop gaming club. Both are thriving. I have presented at regional conferences on manga and created the Lib Gaming UK discussion group http://groups.google.co.uk/group/lib-gaming-uk for UK-centric discussion of all aspects of gaming in libraries. My interests lie in making the library a centre of excitement and creativity for young people using the elements of teenage culture: games, technology, music and fiction. Abstract Purpose – This article describes the initial stages of a year to eighteen-month project to design and produce a peer designed video game for teenagers for use across Derbyshire Libraries. Design/Methodology/ Approach – The context is set with an overview of educational games focusing on the UK experience before examining both Commercial Off the Shelf (COTS) and bespoke games in schools, universities and libraries in the US and UK. Findings – The article posits a specification we believe will result in a game which is both educational and fun. Originality/Value – Describes the initial development of a peer designed game for young people Keywords – videogames, peer design, pedagogy, library promotion, young people Paper type – Case study 1. Introduction All sorts of institutions are taking games seriously. From Big Four accountancy firms and IBM to universities and schools the growth of so called serious games has been rapid and all pervading. Games are being used for everything from military recruitment (America’s Army) to anti-war political cartoons (September 12th). Video games are demanding their right to carry serious and controversial messages (Darfur is Dying and Super Columbine Masacre RPG!) and respond to emotive and sensitive issues such as the Madrid train bombings (the elegiac Madrid). In short, video games have grown up. 2. Demographics A 2005 study which found that 100% of 6-10 year olds in the UK report playing video game (BBC,
2005). They are at least as ubiquitous as television, films and books. At present you would have to be over 40 years old to remember a time before video games. Today’s 14 year olds were born in the year the first Sony Playstation (PS1) was launched, those born in the year Super Mario Bros. was released are 23 and contempories of the Atari VCS are 31. If today’s young people are digital natives then those of us in our 30s and 40s are the digital pioneers hacking out the ground now occupied by Sony, Nintendo and Microsoft with our Spectrums , Amstrads and C64s. Another reason that many businesses and educational institutions are taking notice of games is that they seem to be a lifelong habit. Although interest in games reduce as we get older the same 2005 study found that a staggering 65% of these digital pioneers now in the 25-35 age bracket are still playing games regularly (BBC, 2005). Many more people who would not consider themselves gamers have been attracted to play through so called “casual” games like Dr. Kawashima’s Brain Training, games pre-loaded or impulse bought for mobile phones and even the notorious timesink that is Minesweeper found on many office PCs. It has been estimated that more people play video games of some sort than do not. 3. Motivation Educators and corporate trainers spend a lot of money considering how best to inculcate desired norms, behaviours and knowledge in their pupils or employees. Chalk and talk and drill and test models are currently unfashionable and are of dubious educational benefit. Instead we aspire to pupil centred learning or even taking it a step further and grasp at self directed and self evaluated study. In this model the game replaces the teacher and the power of interaction changes from a top down teacher-pupil exchange to a more equitable exchange of questions and information. There is a simple equation at the heart of serious games used for training and education. Knowledge acquisition is work which contrasts with the play of games (the Playstation brand was chosen by Sony to contrast with the idea of computerised Workstations). The theory is that crossbreeding the two would result in play which achieves meaningful and deep learning because it is an involving and rewarding process in its own right. What has typically happened is the Shavian reversal in which games are often fun but not educational or educational but not fun. We will be examining this phenomena and suggesting some ways of avoiding it when we come to design our game project later in the article. In his 2005 book Everything Bad Is Good For You Steven Johnson draws a distinction between participatory media (sit forward) and non-participatory (sit back) irrespective of any other cognitive or artistic merits. Johnson sees games as a kind of cognitive workout and results from projects using “Brain Training” games (Learning and Teaching Scotland, 2008) seem to corroborate this. Similarly Squires discusses the educationalist Csikszentmihalyi and his concept of “flow”: “…a state of optimal experience whereby a person is so engaged in activity that self-consciousness disappears, time becomes distorted, and people engage in complex, goal-directed activity not for external rewards but simply for the exhilaration of doing.” (in Squires, 2003). Although this is a description of an ideal state of mind for education, video game players will recognise this as “being in the zone”, achieved when the player is completely engaged in play . Before examining modern video games used in schools, universities and libraries it is useful to look at the history of educational video games and how commercial off the shelf (COTS) games have been used in the past. 4. Educational Videogames Perhaps because of their origins in the post-graduate laboratories of prestigious US universities many early video games can be considered broadly educational.
Hammurabi (1969) for instance put the player in the position of the ruler of an ancient kingdom making basic agricultural decisions to keep his people alive. Later refinements like Kingdom would introduce guns or better decisions too. Jack Burness’s Lunar Lander (1973) tasked the player with landing a moon module while contending with realistic lunar physics and a limited amount of fuel. Will Crowther’s Adventure (1976) challenged the player to survive a harsh cave environment filled with monsters and treasures from the then recent Dungeons and Dragons fad with only a verb/noun interface to protect them. The first games developed especially for learning were released for the Atari VCS right at the start of that console’s life. The founder of the company Nolan Bushnell has made no secret that he believes video games are “…an excellent way to foster creativity and curiosity in a social context.” (MIT, 1998) and so it was no surprise despite the still primitive hardware that titles like Maths Grand Prix (1978) and a series of games based on Sesame Street characters appeared. Maths Grand Prix was an attempt to harness the novelty and popularity of video games then in its infancy. In terms of learning approach, the game is pure drill and test and could easily be replicated on paper. The player is asked to answer a series of maths questions. In terms of play a risk-reward element is added by asking the player to choose the difficulty of the question and rewarding more complicated questions (multiplication!) by moving their car further along the track. The first car to the chequered flag wins. Nintendo’s Donkey Kong Jr Math (1983) followed a similar template as did the new breed of educational software for the popular home computers of the day. The Carmen Sandiego series (19851998) however introduced an element of scientific deductive reasoning and thus a new level of complexity. Each game themed around geography, history or natural history involved the player in a detective story where the learning content formed the clues to solve the game’s mysteries. Nintendo would continue to bolster its reputation as a family friendly company with a range of educational software for its latest platforms while the true home of educational video games became the PC. There are a number of reasons for this among them the falling price of relatively high end computers and the availability of new CD-Rom drives. Even Nintendo would release Mario is Missing (1992) and Mario’s Time Machine (1993) on the PC as well as their own Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES). The use of what we now refer to as COTS video games in education began at around this time. This was perhaps inevitable. Where early generations of designers would have to choose between gameplay and educational content because of the limited technology of early games machines, by the 1990s games machines become capable of simulating complex systems which could be represented in real time. One of the first and still most famous COTS game to be adopted by schools and universities was Will Wright’s Sim City (1989) and its sequels Sim Earth (1990) and Sim Ant (1991). Sim City gave the player a virgin plot of land and a couple of thousand dollars and asked them to build the city of their dreams. It had none of the usual conventions of games, no levels or set goals and while there was plenty of feedback there was no traditional all encompassing score. It did however model Will Wright’s interpretation of sociology and economics in an understandable and repeatable way. Sim City, Sim Ant and Sim Earth can be considered early examples of serious games along with Chris Crawford’s games. Chris Crawford was a pioneer in this field with his games Balance of Power (multi polar politics during the Cold War), Global Dilemma: Guns or Butter (ethics and macroeconomics) and Balance of the Planet (ecology). There are a number of interesting examples of COTS being used in education more recently. BECTA, the UK Government's lead agency for Information and Communications Technology in education, has recommended a number of products and there are other case studies covering curriculum areas like physics with Roller Coaster Tycoon and geography Sim City (BECTA). Other studies have found schools using dance mat games for PE (Kirriemuir) and adventure game Myst to inspire creative writing (Rylands, date?). In recent times we have seen the internet become the preferred means of advertising and distributing educational games. For a niche market that cannot rely on celebratory endorsements (usually called licenses) or state of the art graphics, the advantages are obvious. Indeed with the Steam service which delivers a range of games straight to a computer's desktop, and all three major console manufactures
selling downloadable content, it has been argued that all video game content will soon be distributed in this way. Although the PC remains the hardware of choice for most educational video games we can see a trend where educational games aimed at the very young are released late in the life of popular consoles such as the Playstation and Playstation 2 (PS2). This is to cash in on the legacy effect of older siblings handing down their machines as they upgrade. 5. Video Games in Libraries Although we know that UK public libraries have circulated video games from the mid 1980s it has a much less well documented history than the relationship between video games and schools. The US study The Role of Gaming in Libraries: Taking the Pulse (Nicholson, 2007) could usefully be replicated in the UK. A historical survey of video games in libraries would be a valuable contribution to our knowledge in this area. Sadly that falls outside the remit of this article and its author’s resources. Therefore this section will be almost autobiographical in nature. In line with the collection development policies of the time when video games formed part of a media collection (records and videos) educational games where emphasised. As well as games aimed at improving numeracy and literacy skills for primary school children the collection I used as a child also included a number of strategy and adventure games. These games were often versions of the very early Hammurabi politics simulator. They were, at heart, business simulations in which the player was asked to weigh up a number of factors influencing consolidation or growth and respond accordingly. They had a number of outlandish themes including eighteen century smuggling, Smuggler, CCS (1983) or 1920s mafia, Gangsters, CCS (1982) which featured hiring hitmen and owning brothels twenty years before the Grand Theft Auto scandals and all accessed with a junior library card! For the curious both games can be played at the World of Spectrum website. Video games in UK libraries have traditionally been used either as way of generating income, as a “hook” to draw non-traditional users into the library or both. But even where the only objective is to entertain and divert (a reasonable ambition for a public library service) we can expect positive side effects as a BECTA study noted. It should also be noted that despite wide spread penetration of the People’s Network computers there are often policy or technical reasons why these cannot be harnessed for games sessions. Sadly there is no empirical data currently available about the extent of games in libraries in the twentyfirst century, but anecdotally I have heard of a number of local authorities using computers or consoles as part of teenage reading groups or as clubs and activities in their own right and indeed I have used them myself as a Children’s Librarian. There seems to have been no formal attempt to link play with education and COTS games used. This is much closer to the US model where circulating video game collections are increasingly popular but still very rare but where many individual libraries can bid into funds to buy consoles and collections for use on library machines. 6. Video Games for Library Instruction Perhaps it is due to the penetration of games or enquiry based learning into all aspects of academia that the first examples of video games being used for library instruction are from US universities. This is a relatively new field and we have only begun to see the fruits of many pioneers’ labours since 2005. For this discussion the games have been catagorised into three fields; Computerised Board Games, Mods and Bespoke Games. 6.1 Computerised Board Games The earliest and most obvious way to implement a learning experience through video game play is by adopting the interface and conventions of a board game. The advantages for doing so are clear. Nearly all students regardless of cultural or economic background or age will be comfortable with the analogy of a board game. Indeed the Information Literacy game (University of North Carolina Greensboro,
2007) is very similar to Trivial Pursuit and will be immediately recognisable to many. The more ambitious Story Game Project (University of Michigan) resembles a Modern (sometimes called German or Euro) board game but is still recognisably just that with its dice roll and cards. The Information Literacy game is the oldest of the three and has the most traditional pedagogic approach. The learning in the game is based on drill and test with no attempt made to teach anything new. The Fletcher Library Game Project (Arizona State University, 2006) takes a more ambitious approach. The first iteration of the Fletcher project was a printed board game while the current version is a computerised version. Both are experiential in their approach. The game takes place and importantly must be played in the library where the students can find out the answers to the questions posed by the game. The trade off here for a more meaningful learning experience is the specificity of its location. It could be argued that these are the very first examples of a library Alternate Reality Games (ARG). For the purpose of this article these games must be evaluated as video game experiences and there are concerns that by sticking too rigidly to a board game structure they fail to take into account the unique features of the medium. This is more evident in the Information Literacy game but later versions or similar games should consider incorporating sound and images/video and even whole web pages as true Web 2.0 applications 6.2 Mods Perhaps the earliest video game to encourage users to design whole levels was the 1982 Melbourne House game Penetrator but the idea wouldn’t come into its own until the release of Doom by iD in 1993. The widespread adoption of the internet and early adoption of Bulletin Board Systems (BBS) by video game players turned what was an interesting novelty in 1983 into worldwide phenomena. Doom was written to be partly an open source programme. This allowed anyone who wanted to create not only new levels but also new graphics and sound effectively creating entirely new games albeit with essentially the same gameplay elements. This process of content creation is called modding (after modifying) and is currently being used to develop two library information skills games, DoomEd and Benevolent Blue both based on the COTS game engine Half Life 2 which is popular with modders. Both games will of course be instantly familiar to anyone who has played either Half Life 2 or any recent First Person Shooter (FPS). The opposite is also true of course that the game will present a steep learning curve for anyone not already familiar with the conventions and controls of the genre. As might be surmised from the name the primary means of interacting in FPS is by shooting although it is by no means the only one and both Half Life 2 Portal (2007) both by Valve have pioneered interesting and often non-violent means of interacting with the game. However the storyline for both Benevolent Blue and DoomEd are dystopian near future fantasies typical of the genre. While this might well make the games attractive to a given demographic (young males in particular) it can just as easily alienate others. This will not matter as long as we recognise that we are targeting a particular demographic that is traditionally hard to reach and enthuse. A near relation to mods is games and projects created in virtual worlds such as Second Life and Metaverse. 6.3 Bespoke Games A video game designed with particular learning objectives in mind should, in theory, achieve the best results where it can be freed from the conventions of earlier games or the need to fit in the shell of another. By far the most fully realised bespoke games form the Library Arcade (Carnegie Mellon University, 2008), although only two of a proposed five games have been completed Within Range and I’ll Get It. Within Range is a shelving simulator which asks the player to sort three shelves of books into their correct Library of Congress order. As you would expect as the game progresses the call numbers become more complicated and precise and the time limit stricter. I’ll Get It, the second in the series can trace its roots back to Sega’s Tapper (1983) via the webgame Diner Dash (2004). The player takes the role of a library staff member at a busy university information desk. While the room is initially empty after a few seconds the desks begin to fill up with students clamouring with information needs. Game Play essentially involves two tasks: prioritising the students so that no one is waiting too long and so gives up and then fulfilling their information request by selecting the most appropriate resource. There is a formal but subtle dichotomy here between play and work. Play is provided by
juggling the students so that everyone is satisfied just in time; work by evaluating the requests against the available resources. The stated aim of the Arcade is to “develop research skills by entertaining and easy to repeat activities” (Carnegie Mellon University, 2008). Set against this criterion, Within Range would certainly succeed in familiarising students with the classification system but is by no stretch of the imagination fun. By contrast while I’ll Get It plays well it lacks the rigorous and unambiguous feedback required for a meaningful learning experience. The player is often unsure how effective or appropriate the chosen resource is, unlike the clear right/wrong feedback in Within Range. Both games are state of the art in terms of their contempories, they look and certainly I’ll Get It feels and plays like a web game. The fact that both games are played from the perspective of library staff rather than the library user or player suggests that the experience is not as learner centred as it could be. 7. Peer Designed Games Peer designed video games could be any of the types of games and indeed need not be aimed at young people. All that is required is that there is a significant design input from the same demographic that will form the game’s audience. The Northumberland Games project (Northumberland Grid for Learning, 2008) has been running for many years and challenges students across the county to produce, market and sell their video game online and in collaboration with a local video game chain. The game itself is created using middleware or authoring packages and can be as central or peripheral to the curriculum as the school likes. The Futurelab’s Newtoon project (2007) not only involved young people in the initial design process but it also promotes the idea of content creation as play. The Newtoon game playable on PCs and some mobile phones is a framework, a set of props and rules, which can be used to create microgames. In other words it is a game built around modding. 8. Designing a Game for Derbyshire Libraries. Derbyshire County Council is currently in the early stages of a project to design and implement a video game to promote the library service in partnership with Matthew Bates and Professor David Brown from the School of Computing and Informatics and Charlotte Naylor from the Creative Writing MA at Nottingham Trent University. We are currently recruiting a core design team and a wider advisory design team both of which are made up of young people between 12 and 16. The core team will meet in a nearby library and will undertake the task of designing the game and provided assets (sound, art, narrative) with the help of Matthew and Charlotte. They will be responsible for everything from writing the initial design document to level design, story and artwork. They will also be asked to write a regular “developers’ diary” blog to engage with the advisory team. The advisory team will initially be made up of everyone who expressed an interest in the project but was unable to take part in the core team and will be made up of young people from all over Derbyshire. Their role will be co-content creators with the core team (everyone joining the blog will have equal voting rights with the core team) and also critics. Later on we hope the advisory team will also become our testers and focus groups. We also hope to play and evaluate web games and COTS to discover what we can apply to our game design. At first, communication will mainly be through the blog but as the project progresses we hope to be able to trial the game in schools and libraries all over Derbyshire as well as over the website. 8.1 Game Specification While the core and advisory design teams will produce the game, the library service is essentially the client and as such we will need to write a specification or a list of learning objectives for the game. Before we do that however we need to be realistic and to list any limiting factors that will affect our choices.
Our game will be developed in Flash, will run in 2D and will be a stand alone product. The Flash platform will ensure that the product will run on most modern machines without the need to download any further software. It will ensure that it is small enough to be hosted on our website or for distribution on a CD or USB drive. It will also run on ubiquitous devices such as many mobile phones, games consoles and PDAs. Although the decision to limit ourselves to a 2D game is partly a product of the platform it is also an artistic and practical concern. The design team and future content creators will be able to produce artwork which will transfer quickly and easily to the game without the need for further software or complex programming. While many young people are well trained in the conventions of moving around in 3D space it should not be assumed everyone has those skills or patience enough to learn them before using our product. For the sake of simplicity and accessibility the game will be in 2D. Royale and Clarke (2003) believe that learners are most effectively motivated and engaged in high-end, fully realised 3D environments. I contend that players and learners are capable of engaging with simple experiences if they are meaningful to the learner; both the Nintendo DS and the Wii are underpowered next to their less successful rivals and Minesweeper and Bejewelled are many time more popular than more complicated 3D offerings. We are unable to host the game on a dedicated server and so we are unable to offer some features we would like to such as live communication between players. While any future projects could address this for this project we intend to find other ways to explore the social value of games. During the life of the project we will be continually working with schools and individual young people to test the game. Once completed we hope to make it available to all schools in Derbyshire on a CD Rom and beyond via the Derbyshire website. 8.2 Learning Objectives The learning objectives for our game must be clear first to the design teams who will ensure that they are addressed by the game itself. At the end of the experience (note not necessarily after a single play) the player should: • • • • Have a functional knowledge of how to access information and library services. Be aware that they can find content that can enthuse and excite them. Have explored why they would want to use a library and examined the alternatives. Have had the opportunity to engage creatively with the library.
The first two objectives are concerned with acquiring knowledge while the last two are reflexive. This differs from the vast majority of serious games in which the learning objectives are purely objective and task based. We need to find a model that challenges and attempts to change behaviour as opposed to simply rewarding desired or punishing deviant behaviours. Based on political cartoons and satire the aim of newsgames like September 12th is not to win, the meaning of the game is that it is impossible to win a war on terror by conventional means, but to create a situation that is both amusing and thought provoking. Persuasive Games have released a number of products that invite the user to explore an issue such as immigration or airport security. Their most recent game, Fatworld deals with both knowledge transmission but also changing and challenging behaviour. Players are free to live unhealthy lives, eating too much and not exercising or the opposite as they choose but they are presented with clear, unambiguous feedback in-game. Of course the game has an agenda just as much as Will Wright did in Sim City and living unhealthy will be penalised with real and lasting problems. But video games are more than clockwork worlds to tinker with if we are to create a game which has something meaningful to say and is fun for people to explore. We should consider the unique
possibilities that the medium offers. 8.3 Pedagogical features Traditional teaching and learning is linear and product based with little or often no chance to follow up interesting lines of enquiry within the class itself. The current Google generation have little patience for this approach, they are used to non-linear narratives in which definitions and digressions can be accessed at the click of a mouse and a subject examined in its widest possible context and the result is evaluated by the learner. Royale and Clarke (2003) list five pedagogical features of educational video games for us to test our initial specification and design documents against: 1. Players can select an entry level of difficulty.
This should not just be a simple measure of difficulty; we need to consider the possible age range of the audience, degree of existing knowledge about libraries and any accessibility or SEN needs. The player should be free to explore any topic of interest at any time. This seems to contradict the traditional notion of levels and progression , but we should remember that the player is engaging in self directed learning and not structured play and that we can trust them with the manner in which they approach the subject. It would also be useful to have the facility to select a given subject if the game was used as part of a session in the library in which case the library staff would act as tutor for the session selecting and introducing the scenario to be played. 2. Players can achieve mastery through repetition.
Even purely recreational video games can seem like work sometimes. Many modern video games can be broken down into a series of tasks to be completed (Johnson, 2005). Very few games allow all but the most supernaturally skilled players to succeed first time. Failure and repetition is built into the very fabric of video game design. Failure is not necessary in an educational game (although it can be helpful to serve the needs of the plot or as a motivating factor) but repetition is at the heart of why video games can be meaningful learning experiences. In the real world we are very seldom offered the opportunity to repeat and improve on our performance in an experience. In video games it is essential. At a practical level the game or modules should be short enough to encourage replaying. Extra feedback can be helpful, at the end of the first Civilization game for instance the player is rewarded by being shown a recap of their own actions plus their opponents moves which were indivisible while playing, the player is rewarded with seeing the whole story for the first time. 3. Progression is rewarded.
Many games rely on a strong narrative or the novelty of new elements to motivate players to progress through their games. In other words they harness curiosity. A personal score or narrative that could be imported into future games and added to would be ideal. Another option is to represent progression with collectables such as clothes or furniture. This strategy has worked well with free-form games like Animal Crossing or indeed in virtual worlds like Second Life and Metaverse. 4. Mastery Conveys social status. The social features of video games are important and often overlooked. Players form communities of interest online or in person to swap hints and tips and brag about progression. The modding community also form groups dedicated to education. Often experts and natural leaders will emerge online and it would be an interesting research project to investigate how such individuals’ online personas differs from how they present themselves in real life. Play in a group setting can be advantageous but the leader of the session must be careful to instil a no-blame culture, by making the whole group responsible for the game by voting for instance.
Failure is private.
Balancing difficulty is a notoriously difficult task for professional game developers and we face the same problem, how to make the game neither too frustrating nor too easy. There are no easy answers to this one and it should be an interesting problem facing our designers and playtesters. 8.4 Ethics and Censorship We are determined that the design teams will be empowered to make fundamental decisions about the game and not be restricted to tinkering with a pre-existing format. A survey of educational games from Becta in 2002 concluded: “What is captivating for players about games tends to be their structure rather than their content. Structure involves dynamic visuals, interaction, and the presence of a goal and rules that govern play.” (Becta, 2002) As long as the design teams can satisfy the client (Derbyshire Library Service) that their design meets the four learning objectives they should be free to hang their game on any genre framework they choose. The purpose of this project is to facilitate one group of young people to create a product that will appeal to their wider peer group. While this is the chosen methodology we acknowledge that there are problems with it. Our group are self-selecting volunteers and we have made no effort to create a group representative of Derbyshire’s population. Another problem is what the possible mismatch between content the adults (library service, school partners and adult experts) consider suitable and what the young people will consider acceptable. The effects of young people accessing inappropriate content in video games has been well documented but the research remains ambivalent about real harm done to young people (Boyle and Hibbard, 2005). It is easy to overstate the case. Figures quoted in the recent Byron Review (2008) from the UK trade body the European Leisure Software Publishers Association (ELSPA, 2008) show that only a very small amount of video games sold every year falls into the 18+ category (6% in 2007). The average gamer in the UK is 23+ (female gamers are, on average, 33 and the male figure is likely to be very similar). According to the ELSPA just under half of all software sold in 2007 (44%) belonged to the youngest classification, 3+, roughly equivalent to a BBFC U certificate. Rather than being a nation of children who play violent video games it seems that family friendly titles like Animal Crossing or Ratchet and Clank are being enjoyed by a broad spectrum of gamers of all ages and violent or the semimythical sexual video games make up a very small part of the market. It is possible however that the design teams will produce content that could be considered objectionable. We might expect horror themes and we should certainly expect some violence in an action game. Both DoomEd and Benevolent Blue include violence against the “bad guys” as do many books, films and comics aimed at a teenage audience. We need to balance the need to allow the design team to determine the content of the game with Derbyshire Library Service’s expectation of a useful product. Simply put we will not be able to use any product which schools, parents and the library service would consider unsuitable for the 11-16 age group and this should be our guide. The framework of the game will be built around modding. Matthew and the design team will create design tools for the teams and eventually players to use to create content. Like the Newtoon project and COTS games like Spore (provisionally 2008) and Elctroplankton (2005) the players will become content creators, consumers and critics. Royale and Clarke (2003) articulate a common concern about video games in education when they talk of “non-productiveness”. This design will build creativity and hard productiveness into the game itself. While playing and creating, players will be constantly reflecting and modifying their strategies and approaches to creativity by comparing their work to that of their peers. It will be crucial to build a sense of community in much the same way as COTS games, Unlimited Adventures (1993) and Civilisation II (1996), which are still attracting new content and players, almost unheard of for such elderly games. For the Derbyshire project this will be achieved via the blog which
again the young people will have control over in partnership with library staff. This leaves us with the problem of policing user generated content. We will not be able to stop the game being modified to include sex, drugs or even hate speech just as we cannot for the Office software we supply for use in libraries or other educational packages like Story Book Weaver. We can however make sure that the tools provided such as art and sound libraries are appropriate. We can also make sure that any content we choose to host or distribute as a library service is vetted and encourage schools or any other organisations that use the software to do the same. 9. Conclusion. In most spheres of life work and play are polar opposites. Royale and Clarke (2003) refer to Papert’s alternative term for work, “hard fun”. As we have seen success in video games can resemble work in that the player is asked to perform a task or tasks for a given reward but still engages young (and not so young!) people voluntarily. The corporate and educational worlds are starting to recognise the potential for hard fun to facilitate deep learning and engagement and so, slowly, is the library sector. We hope our game will be a small but important contribution to knowledge and practice in this area.
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