Abstract title: Playing with readers : online games and their potential for reference and readers advisory
services in public libraries Author/s & Organisation/s: Ellen Forsyth State Library of New South Wales Indicate which topic or stream you are submitting under How we deliver our services and emerging technologies Presenter/s name: Ellen Forsyth Postal address: State Library of New South Wales Macquarie Street Sydney NSW 2000 E-mail address: email@example.com Phone: 02 9372 1525 Fax : 02 9273 1422 Abstract (200 words minimum to 350 words maximum) Public libraries are increasingly using console based games as way of attracting and entertaining clients. This paper will explore possibilities for further developing games based service delivery. Second Life is already being explored, but there is a new frontier. Online and mobile games can provide significant amounts of information for the players. The practicality of public libraries providing readers advisory services online was explored at a games based seminar in New South Wales in 2010. The richness of online massively multiple online games environments lends itself to readers advisory services providing different ways of attracting and interacting with readers, and of going to readers spaces. This paper will discuss experiences and outcomes from that seminar. A few, mainly university, libraries overseas have developed their own games as a way of helping with resource discovery or with strategies on how to use the libraries. Museums are leading the way with games to help people understand exhibitions, in some museums the exhibitions are actually games. Some of the ideas from museum based games could be adapted for use with local studies discovery. This paper will also explore local studies based games options which it may be possible to create and possible options for the use of online and mobile games to help with resource discovery and library to library collaboration. Examples of good practice will be discussed. Introduction
Over 82 million people are enthusiastically playing FarmVille on Facebook1, over 61 million people play massively multiple online games2, and twenty million players have spent 17 billion hours playing Xbox live3. These numbers only account for a portion of people who play online games. As well as people playing games online there are many other people who play games in formats which are not necessarily online such as bridge, dungeons and dragons and live action role playing. Some of the people who play games will be clients of your library. Many public libraries around Australia, and in other countries, are using games as a way of engaging with their community. Libraries may offer many different kinds of games including board and card games, and some also have console based games available for use in their libraries. There are, however, many other ways games could be used in libraries and we can learn from other organisations about this. Games are being used extensively to aid resource discovery in museums. The Show me UK website brings together several online museum based games in one location4. Other museums are using live action role playing games to help people learn about an historical site and what it would be like to live in at a particular time and place in the past. Examples of this can be seen with the Navan Centre5 in Northern Ireland, Fort Snelling6, in Minnesota and Old Sturbridge Village7, in Massachusetts where the guides do not refer to current times but role-play living in the past and as a visitor to these sites you have stepped into their game. Many museums have games as part of their exhibitions, for example the Science Museum in London makes extensive use of games in their Energy - fuelling the future8 exhibition both in the museum and online, and the sculptural Listening post9 which, as it brings in text from internet discussions, also brings in elements of play to the museum. Vikingeruten or the Viking trail is a series of four games for museums about the Viking in Northern Jutland, Denmark. In these games you are Harald Bluetooth’s valiant warrior Thorsten Wolf Eye. These games are targeted at children, and are played onsite at the museums using mobile phones10. The Smithsonian Museum runs games through some of their museums to help in discovery of museum content. goSmithsonian Trek which ran from 24 June to 24 July included a wide range of game and play skills11. A small number of libraries are also exploring the area of serious games, for example DOK, in Delft in the Netherlands, has developed a Microsoft Surface application for resource discovery of the photographs in the local council archives12. This builds on their already strong use of games within the library. As well as providing extensive library based games options using PlayStation and other console platforms, DOK, with the Delft University of Technology and students there, developed a computer game called Dark ink which is about the media13. The game was developed with a wide number of constraints in place and this has limited the ability of this game to be used more widely, however, the model of a public library collaboration with a university using student designers is a model for other organisations to explore for game development. North West Missouri State University is one of a small number of university libraries, which has some game like tools to teach people about how to research at the library14. These libraries show both elements of what it is possible to do with games in libraries. The games can be a recreational resource discovery tool or provide training in how to do research.
Anderson et al provide a detailed and current overview of the situation of serious games relating to cultural heritage15; these examples also suggest a place for games in cultural institutions, through the provision of some examples, in helping a community discover their past. Picture the impossible16, a city wide game which ran during September 2009 in Rochester, New York, was co-organised by the local newspaper, the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle and Lab for Social Computing at the Rochester Institute of Technology. This game contained elements of relevance to a local studies based game for a library as it brings together discovery, collaboration, and play. This game, or series of games, included online puzzles, scavenger hunts that took people to new neighbourhoods and information about the history of the area. The game also encouraged collaboration and community involvement. Games are also being used to solve problems in science such as how proteins are folded17, to teach information literacy18, to teach the history of medieval Amsterdam19 and other places20, and to teach the US military about working with people in other countries21. These examples of games support the concept of using games for resource discovery whether through one off events like Picture the impossible or through ongoing applications like DOK has explored. According to the United States of America Entertainment Software Association statistics • Sixty-eight percent of American households play computer or video games. • The average game player is 35 years old and has been playing games for 12 years. • Forty percent of all game players are women. In fact, women over the age of 18 represent a significantly greater portion of the game-playing population (34 percent) than boys age 17 or younger (18 percent). • In 2009, 25 percent of Americans over the age of 50 play video games, an increase from nine percent in 1999. • Thirty-seven percent of heads of households play games on a wireless device, such as a cell phone or PDA, up from 20 percent in 200222. These statistics help show the diversity of game players within the community. Libraries could tap into this with how information and services are provided. Comparable data is not available from Australia, however, Of the 2.2 million children who had accessed the Internet in the previous 12 months, more used the Internet at home (92%) than at school (86%), with the most popular Internet activities at home being educational activities and online gaming23. Collaborative game playing can “offer opportunities for positive civic experiences for youth and can foster connections to the community”24. This would be of value for a local studies game as the local council, which is providing the local studies collection in the library could benefit from increased understanding within the community. It may even lead to increased involvement with how the council is run. It is tempting to speculate about the usefulness of a game for new councilors, which teaches them their roles and responsibilities. It could be a little like snakes and ladders where the councilor advances when they act within the law, and they go backwards when they exceed their powers.
Reading and games For many people the reasons they play games and the reasons they read are similar. If people like stories the material they read, both fiction and non-fiction will mostly be story oriented and they are likely to play games with strong story lines. If characters are the dominant appeal characteristics for reading they are likely also to be the dominant appeal for playing as well. The character appeal does include the people who are playing games with the person as well as the in game characters. This does not mean that people have a narrow focus in the approach they take to reading or playing, just that certain styles appeal to them more than others. I did a survey recently asking people who played games and read to tell me about their playing and reading, what did they like and why. The same themes came through. All but 2% of the survey respondents read and play through the same doorways. In Australian public libraries people may be asked what else have they read recently as a way of finding about other titles to possibly suggest. I think it is a good idea to also ask about watching and playing as this also informs the suggestions for reading. I like the Nancy Pearl reading doorways of character, language, setting and story25. Don’t think this means that people are really limited in their reading and playing as each person interprets doorways in their own way, just to make it fun. What was interesting is that character, story and setting, in different combinations were very strong doorways for most people who responded to my survey, and language only featured in a few replies. Another interesting element was that character came through as being important in a slightly different way in games as some people would play games they did not really like because of the people they played with, others it really was all about the people and not the game. I have said elsewhere that Assassins creed 2 and The five greatest warriors by Matthew Reilly have very similar appeal characteristics. I want to encourage people to think about titles which connect different style, for example Halo, titles by Matthew Reilly, Alastair Reynolds. Robert Louis Stephenson and John Buchan may all connect to the same readers and players as they all have strong doorways of story and character, with setting being important as well. For research about the appeal characteristics of games and reading I surveyed people about their reading and playing preferences26. One person who plays table top role playing games, reads science fiction and fantasy, information about tabletop role playing games, medical research and some romance said The MMORPGs[massively multiple online role playing games] are pretty ways to feel like I'm accomplishing something without having to clean the house enough to have friends over, or having to stick to much of a schedule, most of the time. (Being a full-time childcare type person tends to mean that I'm at the beck and call of the health and well-being of a child. "Terribly sorry, have to drop group; the school nurse just called." Easier online!) 27 This shows the potential there could be for libraries to consider online and game based programs. The target audience would probably be existing game players, but this is a growing group across almost all age groups. Another player describes his experience in the following terms strongly linking his reading and his playing experiences to the same appeal characteristics. For me, escapism is only a small part of a bigger picture however. Fantasy for me provides an excellent canvas for expressing ones imagination and
creativity, more so than other genres in my opinion. As a reader, each new series, each new book or short story is unique and bold, dripping with colour and life and although it can be said for all literature, it is especially true that each work of fantasy fiction is strongly unique in ways uncapturable in other genres…I feel this aspect of fantasy is intensified with RPG's, as they not only give a storyteller the tools to create their own worlds but they make it a much more intense experience for those who choose to join that world. Where in a series such as Lord of the Rings, we all held our breath as characters bought an epic storyline to life, in a game of the same nature, we play those same stylised heroic characters and the fate of the world and it's inhabitants, no more or less real than in a traditional piece of literature, is in our hands28. Another describes her playing experiences in terms of developing stories, characters and environments as well. I guess this is where ‘Halo’ would come in – the pitting of one genetically engineered warrior against the odds of an invading alien force. It’s about story and character, a little about setting, though the telling of the tale in between action sequences and game-play is perhaps what keeps me drawn to Halo – it satisfies the deep hunger for classic story-telling using language and imagery. Again the music helps, you know when the bad guys are coming because the music changes, you know when a sequence is about to end because the music plays, you want the story sequences to keep going because the music is expansive and consuming and operatic…Halo isn’t just about playing the various levels and completing sections, it’s about watching the storylines unfold and listening to the narration of this tale of two worlds colliding and colluding. There’s good guys and bad guys and then there’s bad guys who are now good guys, and then right when we think it’s Us and Them it’s not about Us at all, it’s about Them…… but throughout it all, Master Chief stands firm in his willingness to fulfil his orders to the letter and not stop until he has succeeded. I guess that’s what makes Halo such a cool game, it’s not just the story, it’s not just the alien setting, and it’s not just about the characters, nor is it just about the language (with Aliens speaking both English and their own native tongue, whatever that is). Halo is a world where the impossible can occur and where when you’re the Master Chief there is no possible way for you to fail29 Reading groups Readers advisory work, especially in areas like reading groups, could take place in games environments using the game for the meeting space. The online location used would depend on the local preferences of the readers and players. This information would be easy to find out. Lord of the rings online30, is a massively multiple online game (which means that it is really big with lots and lots of players) loosely based on the JRR Tolkien trilogy31 of the same name. In September 2010 it went from being a subscription game to a free online game. This has opened up possibilities for using it in running reading groups organised by libraries as instead of people having to pay a subscription, they just need to download the software and have a broadband connection. This does not open this kind of reading group up to everyone in every community, but it does make it accessible to some people who may not be able to come to the library for a reading group for a variety of reasons. It also means you can participate in a reading group even if you can’t leave home. Games like this have much of the communication taking place through instant messaging, however, people can actually talk and listen to each other as well. This requires a little setting up, but it is not too difficult. Each
group of readers and players could decide which method of discussion best suited their reading group. Many of the people who play games may also be library users and could be interested in engaging in a reading group online. I have suggested in an earlier paper that this would be a model to consider for future home library service clients32, and it still seems a model to consider as it would provide valuable interactions with other people. This may seem a strange idea at present, but each generation of home library service clients is becoming increasingly technologically adept. It would be important not to limit who can engage in a reading group this way as it could easily appeal to people with child care responsibilities, or other reasons for not being easily able to come along to the library for a reading group. It may also be that some people could simply prefer an online interaction. The exact locations for the discussions could vary from meeting to meeting, making sure that the locations were accessible to all the readers/players regardless of their level, and that they were not in major thoroughfares or action hot spots. The locations could be chosen to fit in with reading themes that are being discussed and even in game libraries could be used as locations for discussions. I think this area of service will change as e-books continue to advance and develop, and that leaves the question of social interaction for people who are physically isolated, but have a computer and a fast internet connection. What can the library do to help people interact with others when they are not very mobile? Lord of the rings online is not the only massively multiple online game. Reading group discussions could take place in other games, such as World of Warcraft, City of heroes and villains or Star trek, and the list goes on an on. Participants could agree on the location and time, and use the existing chat function to have the discussion, or they could use voice discussion. It may be that people have a reading group toon, just like people have bank toons. This kind of reading discussion could be a collaboration between libraries. There are numerous places people could meet with many inns, ships, and other places where there are rooms which can just be used without having to ask permission and mostly without having to fight anyone. This would make library based reading groups accessible to a wide range of people who currently can’t access them. I have yet to find a library that is using a massively multiple online game in this way. This is not just for people who are homebound through infirmity. It would also be great for people who have family commitments as it means that you can go to a reading group without having to tidy the house or wake your baby, just like the person state in an earlier quote. There are great possibilities for a multigenerational reading group discussion to take place. You could even explore the reading available in this game as a starting point for discussions of writing about history, war, mythology, or you might discuss the latest Jennifer Crusie novel instead. There are also many ingame illusions to writing as well. For example if you were meeting in World of Warcraft you could have almost endless reading group discussion based on the reading illusions within the game. Earnest Hemmingway is immortalised as Hemet Nesingwary, and Lewis Carrol’s work is referenced extensively in part of Northrend. There are just a couple of examples of how in game reading and writing examples may be triggers for a reading discussion as well. There are also lots of film illusions within the game as well.
Using a games interface will appeal to people, whatever their age, who like games or it may depend on the topic which is being discussed at the time. Do you know how many of your housebound readers play games? Or do you know what that statistic is likely to look like in even five years time? Women over the age of 25 play the most pc based games33 and in the UK “51% of the 36 to 50s play games” 34. The following shows the current internet access by age group with the most recent data available. This shows some of the opportunities available with this kind of service delivery. table 5: Australian Internet access and use at home by age - 2006-0735 Internet access Internet use Age group (years) % % 15-24 79.7 76.5 25-34 75.8 71.8 35-44 80.2 72.6 45-54 78.5 66.5 55-64 64.7 51.7 65-74 42.2 28.1 75 and over 21.8 10.5 Total 69.5 60.9 There are also possibilities for linking other readers advisory work to games. Games and professional development Professional development possibilities also exist in online games and not just because of the skills gained in learning to play the games. A series of occasional talks in the Saurfang Realm are running and they follow on from a seminar held in World of Warcraft in June 201036. While holding a seminar in an online games environment was a library first for New South Wales public libraries, a very successful science conference was held in World of Warcraft in 2008. The science conference was written up in several places3738. The online games seminar which took place in June 2010 involved participants from Australia, New Zealand and the USA. Speakers included Scott Nicholson, Liz Danforth, Adam Beck and Peggy Sheey39. Information was provided to participants about how to be involved40 in the seminar, and for several it was their first time in a massively multiple online game. It was also the first time the speakers, all very experienced World of Warcraft players, had presented in a games environment. The seminar received very positive evaluations, as did the in library seminar held the previous day about games and libraries. As a result of feedback a series of occasional talks in World of Warcraft was planned to enable people to continue the discussion of games and libraries. The speakers have been a mix of public and university librarians. The talks series is allowing people from a wide geographic area to participate. The transcripts are made available (two of the participants provide these) shortly after each talk is finished41. This makes the content of the information available for people who are not able to participate online. This series of talks will continue and information about upcoming talks, as well as transcripts of previous talks, is available on the Games and libraries wiki42. The occasional library talks explore the use of games of all formats in libraries. They provide the opportunity for people to hear from speakers they would not otherwise be
able to access. The talks, which take place by instant messaging are timed so as to be accessible for people in Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the USA. Games and local studies A local studies game could also be used for current information issues such as the local environment and any concerns about it. There are some general environmental games available online from places such as Envirotalk43 and the Environmental Protection Agency44 in the USA. A game could be used to help run scenarios on planning and development options. Locally based games could be used for many areas of awareness raising around history, environment and community. Scott Nicholson states that Gaming is participatory storytelling. The designer of the game sets up the backstory, the world, and the rules; in playing the game, participants get to plan a part of the story. Games allow us to mentally engage with a different time and place and explore decisions and roles that we would not encounter in our everyday lives45 This description broadly fits the idea for serious games as well. I highlight it because of the storytelling element. Exploring the idea of local studies games involves exploring the possibility of story telling or story discovery about the community. It would also be a discovery of local setting and local character, and even possibly local languages. People can find out about where they live or where they are visiting through the use of games. Games allow people to use an exploration and discovery approach, helping people find out about new places and people in a fun and non-didactic manner. They can encourage the use of trial and error, they may be competitive. and they can facilitate serendipitous discovery. Most of all they can be fun. This is an important element to keep in mind, that the fun element of games has to be present in any planned local studies type of game. Fun is not a critical element to all serious games; Iuppa and Borst46 describe the extensive work of serious games in a military context. The importance there is about the game being immersive. This immersive element is also relevant for local studies, however, it would be hoped that people would also enjoy the experience of playing the games. Any local studies games which involved people finding out more about military exploits, genocide, situations which involved much suffering such as famines or natural disasters, would of necessity be much more sobering games to play. Staff at the University of Michigan have explored using games for delivering training for students. An element they found of benefit was that “game players get results by trial and error, they stumble across things, follow hunches, repeat actions over and over until they get them perfect”47. This description is very close to that of people learning about research in a public library, and games may be able to help either with research or with serendipitous resource discovery. It highlights that it is okay to not succeed at first, but that through repetition, or a change in strategy there can be very constructive learning outcomes. Public libraries have recently refocused on the importance of reading and the pleasure gained from reading, after a prolonged focus on the importance of reputable information sources and technology. All these elements are important in libraries, pleasure, reading, research, technology, no one element is more significant than the others. They all need to be present although their ratios will vary over time, there will be ebbs and flows. Public libraries need to keep thinking about what makes them
libraries and imagining and planning for alternative futures, and games can help with this. In New South Wales a research project explored scenarios for public libraries for 203048. There were four scenarios developed by consultants working with over 200 public library staff. The next stage in this was the development of a set of wild cards, which function as a card game, like rummy. The card game, with future themes help encourage the discussions about the planning for the future. Playing the card game can help with scenario planning and brainstorming. These cards have been distributed to New South Wales public libraries, and are available for purchase as well49. Serious games in a public library could incorporate elements from each of these areas, pleasure, reading, research, technology, but it would depend upon what was the aim of the game, and who were the target players. Games are also a way for people to discover information about the library, the community, how to do research and whole series of other learning possibilities. The games also do not simply have to be for the community, they could include people from the community in designing the games. These are all decisions, which can be made locally depending on what is the desired strategic outcome of incorporating a local studies game in the public library collections or services. There are few public library based examples of games for either resource discovery or as a way of discovering research opportunities. There are many public libraries mainly in the USA, Canada and the Netherlands with a growing number in Australia and New Zealand who are offering games for use in the library. PlayStations, WII, and Xboxes are becoming more common, joining cards, chess and other board games which have been present in some libraries for decades. The next step has rarely been taken to use games as way of exposing the resources available in the library, or other parts of the local council. This is an area of opportunity. The Microsoft surface local studies game, developed by DOK, the public library for Delft in the Netherlands, starts to explore the use of games and play for resource discovery. They are using digitised photographs from the Delft Archives50 to do this. Placing your DOK library card on the tabletop of the Microsoft surface accesses the images. The address data is obtained from a QR code on the card and historic photographs from that and nearby addresses are shown. These images on the Microsoft surface can then be manipulated in a similar way to images on an iPhone. The images and related data can not be downloaded, annotated or tagged. Despite these limitations this starts to demonstrate opportunities for using games as resource discovery tools for local studies, providing browseability, discovery and play. The work Paul Hagon51, from the National Library of Australia, has been doing with mashups using images from Flickr the Commons52, Flickr53 and Google street view provides a similar, although, web based, outcome. Paul Hagon has been deliberately providing working models of possibilities so that other people can see what can be done once data is made available with Open API. Hagon has built a series of digital models to inspire others. The Orange County Library System in Florida has collaborated with other agencies to create a Second Life presence for the Central Florida Memory project54. Central Florida Memory in Second Life has replica heritage buildings55, and provides access to some of the web based content of the project. It is not quite a game, but it incorporates elements, which could be used in a local studies game, and shows some of the possibilities.
While boldly writing about the possibilities for the potential of games in local studies there would need to be a discussion at a local level to decide if any game based resource discovery tool targeting adults would be actually called a game as there is some bias56 about this terminology. If one was designing the same kind of tool for students or children, the game designation may be a very popular one. Why consider any kind of game to do with local studies? Local studies are unique to each area. This content can be used to tell the story of each community so that people can learn the stories about the area, including the newer stories, finding out information and images of interest whether they are a new resident, a long term resident or a visitor to the area. A local studies game could facilitate people making this kind of discovery. It could be used to highlight events and lifestyles from the past, or to aid understanding of newer residents from different cultures. A local studies game could be both about helping people have a greater understanding about an area as well as prompting questions about the environment, the community, heritage objects and places. When considering a local studies game it is necessary to consider what content is available. This will depend upon what materials are available about a local area locally and in collections, which are outside the area, for example state or national collections. These collection items, records and catalogues are critical for any heritage based game. The Powerhouse Museum in Sydney, New South Wales, has made the contents of their catalogue available under a Creative commons licence57, which would facilitate the inclusion of their data in a local studies based game. This model, if followed by other organisations could facilitate the inclusion of information and images from many organisations within a local studies based game. In 2003 New South Wales public libraries were surveyed to find out the extent of their local studies collections. While annual public library statistics are supplied by each public library in New South Wales they contain limited data about these collection elements58. The survey found that the distributed state wide local studies collections contained approximately: 635,000 photographs; 149,000 printed books; 12,800 minute books; 16,360 rate books and 5,000 oral history sound recordings. [and that ] 47 libraries [out of 99 library services] have/had digitising programs.59 Some of the council run local studies collections still have uncatalogued photographs, records and inaccessible oral histories. This is all material, which would add richness to a game to discover the local communities. There is also the potential for content creation for a game, or the game could actually be about content creation encouraging people to share images and stories about a place. There are also separate heritage collections belonging to local historical societies in many communities, which could be accessed for relevant local games. The game does not have to be about a whole community, but could focus on a street, buildings, a cemetery, the enrvironment or a particular historical event. The Australian Newspaper Digitisation Program60 has enormous potential for either a resource discovery game or a research methods game. The program is a collaboration between national, state and territory libraries to digitise Australian newspapers, and provide optical character recognition for full text searching. It is a multiyear program. 2.7 million pages from newspapers all around Australia are now available for full text searching61. They already have a hall of fame for text corrections of the data62, which looks exactly like a player ranking list in a game. It is possible that some of the text editors are seeing the correcting work they are doing
as a game, it certainly must be fun or they would not voluntarily be doing as much work as they are. As more and more pages are digitised and become searchable there is the possibility for serendipitous discovery because of the searchable nature of this newspapers dataset. There are some exciting ways games could be played to aid in this resource discovery, prompting particular kinds of search. For this dataset, because of how is it structured it may be possible for a discovery game to have elements of research methodology without it seeming deliberately ponderous or boring. With the dataset changing over time there would be the potential for a game to be replayed, and still be enjoyed. Alternatively a game of discovery could help people see the amazing stories which have become more accessible helping to highlight past injustices, current descriptions of historic events as well as strange quirks of history. As historic rate books, and other council held documents, are increasingly being digitised this simplifies the process further. In one way what is being described is a giant, heritage, multilingual mashup as a starting point for game design. Some of the data is already present in Trove63, which is the new Australian single access point for searching across many different datasets including Picture Australia64, Libraries Australia65, the Australian Newspapers Digitisation Program66, and archived websites from Pandora67. However, much of the data still only has locally based records, which could be incorporated in to a game as well. Picture the impossible68, Sydney sidetracks69, eTreasure70 and REXplorer71 present local studies game based discovery options, despite the different formats used. They all have mobile elements, often using mobile devices, and seek to teach people about the history of a local area. Picture the impossible and eTreasure both have scavenger hunt elements to aid in discovery. This location based exploration shows the potential to use technology to help with discovering the history of the community you are living in or visiting through a combination of game based or game like tools. A similar method has been tried in Ohio targeting tourists72. The use of portable devices allows a local studies game, which may have been developed for web, based access so that it is accessible to people wherever they are, to be used for location specific purposes, and this has the greatest potential to bring mashups of many layers of local studies relevant data into highly interactive and tailored games. It increases the potential games like Picture the impossible, or a game, which is tied to a local celebration or anniversary. These games all show that there is a potential for games based around the local studies collections of public libraries and the local area, as from descriptions and comments they appear to have been popular, and fun. Both Picture the impossible and eTreasure received positive evaluations, which hints at the relevance of similar games for other locations. The work developing a game to help children discover and start to understand Baroque music73 highlights some of the issues for complex areas of historical relevance. Some of the terminology is going to be specialised, there are complexities about how the facts link together, and there are going to be some ideas which will be difficult to convey to non specialists. That a music game, actually a series of mini games74 was developed to help children understand and enjoy Baroque music is possible makes it extremely likely that a local studies game, or series of games to help people learn more about a local area, is also possible. Not all local studies information is a complex as Baroque music. It would be possible to start with a game based on discovering the events which occurred in particular locations or stories about key people from the area’s past.
An idea to consider for a local studies game based resource discovery tool would be that it is scalable, so that as different areas digitise, geocode, catalogue or tag material it can be added in to an existing game structure in the same way that a patchwork quilt develops over time. It is also the same way that World of Warcraft developed, with locations being added in over time. This also would provide a benefit for players as people could easily digitally cross boundaries in their research, discovery or play. A simple but popular local studies game could focus around the history of streets, as this is already a popular research area, and lends itself well to geocoded data. It is also quite dramatic as you need not go far into the past to see significant changes, and walking local streets is a good way of finding out about a community. Historic photographs could be overlaid on Google street view, so that a complete perspective could be obtained even if there were missing heritage photographs. There could also be an option to play the game, doing the resource discovery using all available images of an area, or using only ones which fit within a particular date range depending on the other elements of the game. Other data such as stained glass, painting, drawing, sculpture, mosaic, stone carving and other records all could be incorporated. In areas where there are aerial photographs this data could be added in as well. With Open API this does not necessarily need to be an expensive option. It may require that libraries think differently about the data that they record, how they make it accessible to others, and it may require some retrospective work, especially around geocoding material, but it may be possible for the geographical data to be obtained in other ways. Clearer right statements may help as well. A game could be developed to be used in cemeteries to help people discover the history of the community. It could involve a kind of scavenger hunt through the cemetery, locating graves of well known local identities as well as people who contributed to the community. Similar structure to the Vikingeruten or the Viking trail games using mobile phones75 could be used. This game could also tie in with digitised image, audio and video files from local libraries and museums which may allow people to see pictures of a person when they are standing next to their grave, or hear a relevant sound recording or watch a video. A similar idea could be used with walking tours of towns or suburbs, with a game structure tying together either augmented reality applications or direct access to digitised images about the local area. As information is added about another cemetery or another town or suburb the game could expand. SCVNGR76 is a mobile game which keeps expanding as more challenges are added in. Museums are already using SCVNGR to help people discover their collections, and it, or a similar tool, could be an effective way to help people discover the history of a community. The game format could appeal to people who play games, and the content could be reused from existing digitised collections. Games can be used to help with a broad range of learning objectives, even for learning about politics. For example a game has recently been created to help 11 – 14 year olds in the United Kingdom with their understanding of politics77 so there could even be game to help people with their understanding of local, state or federal government here. They can also be used to help learn about scientific discoveries. The Nobel Prize website also has links to many different educational and serious games78 to help people learn about discoveries and developments such as blood typing, DNA, the
immune system and diabetes. This is providing the same information as is already available in many other places, but in an interactive and engaging way. For local studies games it would be helpful to have a mobile version so that it could be played on the actual streets, cemeteries and other locations, as well as on the internet or in a library. For areas with poor mobile coverage it may require a downloadable version rather than a live version, although a live version would more easily allow the use of QR codes in the game. How mobile access was managed would need to be a local decision. For rural and remote areas, for example parts of western New South Wales, a totally mobile solution may not be possible. For an online local studies game a key element is bringing together as much data from as many sources as possible so that it really is proving an integrated discovery space. There may be the opportunity for a generic local studies online game to be developed, but how it is played depends on the local resources available, much as the reference and information training tools ORE, Ohio Reference Excellence79 and the New South Wales version, Ref-ex80 rely on local data and information for the localised training. A game could be about research or it could be about resources to showcase local items and facts of interest. For example there could be a generic game based on the settlement of an area. This could work regardless of how many centuries ago an area was settled, the resources would just be a bit different depending on where the game is played, so in Australia it would be inclusive of both Indigenous settlement of the area, and latter settlement as well. The game could work through research tools which could be used for an area, or it could work through the resources which are available for an area, helping people find out, for recreational interest about the images, stories, published and unpublished information which builds up an account of the past. It could also raise questions of missing data and missing stories as often the information relating to Indigenous Australians is more limited for many reasons, and at other times there is much more detailed information available. The game could have a component encouraging people to look at the larger story, for example what was happening nationally or internationally at the same time, which may have been an influence on local events. It could also bring in the actual players stories as well, as their present reflects upon the past. Issues of preserving local histories could also be addressed. There could be another online game, for example, for house histories, with each step prompting research tools which could be used, allowing faster progress around the game if tools are available for example rate books still in existence, or historical photographs of the property, but experience slower progress as more resources have to be explored in the absence of rate books or photographs, or other records of relevance. This has the potential to turn a traditional and slightly boring method of research training, the pathfinder, into a much more interesting training too. It could be like foursquare81 for research with each goal reached being announced widely, just as foursquare allows people to publicise their location based goals. With this same area of either research or resource discovery there are both online and off line game options. If more of the resources are not available online it may be better playing a game, which is not online, although there could be the potential to switch between formats depending upon preference. There could be prompts to help people in their research, which is just the same as doing quests in a game. These research prompts to could help to provide some of the game elements. If any kind of local studies game could bring together all currently available relevant digitised material regardless of holding institution that would be even more useful. As
often, even for small local government areas records of relevance will be held by a range of organisations, both government and non-government. Access or references to non-digitally accessible material are also going to be important. Even starting with what is available locally from the digitised image database (if available) and the library catalogue that would provide a different way to think about accessing the data. If local, state and national archives could be interlaced as well as other digitised collections of photographs, pictures, sound, and video it would tell a richer local story and contribute to a much richer game environment. Despite the above description, it does not have to be fancy. There could be a simple game based on house history research. The image database could be streamlined so that it provided a heritage version of Google street view, and linked to any available other online resources about that street, or house if available. If possible it could link via catalogue links to print resources of relevance, so that if one was researching house or street information one could be linked through to the record for the Sands directory82 which is a property by property listing for suburban Sydney, and any rate books for the area. Linking Sands83, which often mentions the occupation of the householder, with images and maps would allow some interesting discovery games for children or adults based on past popular professions like seamstresses and boot makers. This would be a simple way of combining current and heritage images of streets as well as information about the kinds of people who used to live in them, based on occupation. As previously mentioned cemeteries or the areas, which they used to be in, would also provide rich material for location or web based games. With both the resource and research based games models there would need to be a few checks and balances to make sure that they were actually game. Once the giant mashup was in place there are almost infinite possibilities for resource discovery based games, and historically accurate story telling. There are opportunities for the discovery of many elements about the past. The quirky stories of daily life would help a game be constructed across one or many local government areas, states or countries. As well as the tales of daily life it would open the possibility for looking at large event such as either world war, being able to link in to fighting fronts (using local studies information from other countries), displaced people, and stories of home fronts. It would also allow the bringing together of like events in different place such as industrial strikes, specific kinds of agriculture and industries. The game may be a series of prompts to aid resource discovery by browsing or searching through a range of different tools, for example visually based searching like the DOK Microsoft surface application or more text based searching like the Northern Territory based “Our story” database84. It would be interesting to see if a local studies based game could be developed using the principles from massively multiple online games of skill development and moving through levels in the research, kind of a local studies version of Lord of the rings online85 or City of heroes86. Something like this already exists in an offline form with anyone who does local studies or family history research and interacts with other players, in this area known as researchers. Instead of comparing notes about armour and monsters, information is shared about the difficulties of researching across different countries and languages. With the increasing digitising of resources in this area this will increasingly become possible. It may also become more desirable as more and more people who play games start exploring family and local studies research options. Just as these online games can be explored linking different online geographical areas together so too could a game link different actual local areas together, as each set of resources is explored through a game. The government of Singapore is contributing to the development of World of Temasek87 which is a massively multiple online game about the history of Singapore in the
fourteenth century. Due for release in late 2011 this game will apparently allow teachers (for a fee) to customise some of the learning experiences for their students. The game also will link in with collections in museums. If this can happen in Singapore, this idea could be taken elsewhere as well. The genre of newsgames88 also present some ideas for local studies games, although in the interests of local sensitivities these kinds of games may need to be provided by the local community rather than the local council. They could be too politically sensitive to create as local councillors and possibly staff would be likely to feature in them, however, there would be intense local interest to make sure they are preserved. Games could also be an informative way to bring Indigenous knowledge to greater understanding, at least in areas where there currently are Indigenous people. Games may help with language preservation or at least with an understanding of some of the issues involved with language loss. These games have the potential to be very depressing to play. This could build on some of the ideas presented in the play Ngapartji Ngapartji89 that was performed in English and Pitjantjatjara, one of the languages of central Australia. The audience learned some Pitjantjatjara through learning a children’s rhyme translated from English into Pitjantjatjara. As well the play was supported by a website90 encouraging people to contribute financially, and in other ways to help the retention of Pitjantjatjara. Library based games may be able to help as well, particularly for places like Alice Springs in the Northern Territory where there are several local languages still in active use. This brings to mind the layering of the game. The games or games could be layered by specific areas, events, statistics, people groups including Indigenous people and migration, invasion or occupation, styles of agriculture or industry. This list is almost endless depending however upon what information is available for a local area and in what degree of detail it can be made available. The games do not necessarily need to be developed by councils, or even have councils as the agencies, which contract the development of a game. A recent government 2.0 initiative in Australia involved the use of non-confidential government data being made available for a mashup competition91. Publicly accessible data, which is out of copyright, or is made available under an accessible Creative Commons licence, may be able to attract games developers to this area. What kind of games are possible with just the resources from one local government area, but including resources about the area, which are not held locally? There really are an almost endless series of possibilities for games. There could be games about streets, houses, cemeteries, people, places, the natural environment, wildlife (native, domestic or feral), games about how the council operates, or heritage collection items. There are many stories about each area which could be conveyed through the use of effective game design. The challenge is working out what is appropriate for each community, which would involve community consultation, and in doing effective game design. A challenge is also in getting libraries to consider this as an option. There is also a challenge about how this could all be paid for. If a game was developed collaborately, with the potential to be used in different local government areas, the development costs could be shared, and each new partner could buy in to the shared experience. If there was also a partnership with the local tourism groups that would increase the potential for revenue raising so that this could happen.
Jane McGonigal, a game designer, gave herself concussion in 2009 which lasted over three months92. She turned her recovery, when it became clear that the concussion was not going away quickly, into a game including her own support team. It is this approach where almost anything can be turned into a game which I would like to bring to local studies and related research. While local studies is an exciting area for libraries, sometimes the material is hard to access, and requires a high degree of specialised understanding to even be able to do basic research because the tools are either complex or fiddly. Or people have no idea about the richness of the local area they are visiting or living in because the information and objects have not been made accessible. It can only be an exiting area if you actually know about it, and games can help people discover the stories of an area. If research concepts could be conveyed in a more engaging way, it could be more encouraging to potential researchers, and the researchers may obtain a better understanding of the complexity of their research and renewed vigour and enthusiasm about it. This could help to counter the effect which people have after watching “Who do you think you are?” which has United Kingdom,93 Australian94 and a USA version95. After seeing it people unfamiliar with research think they can walk into almost any library or archive and find out the amazing stories about their family, going back several generations, in about an hour and see the original records with a curator interpreting the meaning for them. A research based game may help provide a balanced understanding, and yet keep people inspired in their search. A game which encouraged the quest. and helped build research alliances for future use would be helpful. The kinds of game options I have been suggesting, while taking skills to develop, may be possible to fund through collaborations. They also could use existing content and data in its original form; it does not need reformatting, although it may need digitisation. A much more sophisticated option for a local studies game is available from the work being done by the University of Cincinnati through their Centre for the reconstruction of historical and archaeological sites96. Several heritage sites have been already reconstructed digitally including the caves at Lascaux and Indian earthworks in the Ohio River Valley. These could form the basis for an immersive games environment and would take the kind of game constructed to quite a different level. These kinds of environments would be challenging for each local government to consider, so it may be that key sites of great than local significance are considered. Continuing this idea Australia, New Zealand and Turkey could consider building on the work done by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation and their digital reconstruction of ANZAC Cove in Turkey. This was a key First World War battle site for these countries. A multilingual game would help enhance the understanding of this conflict, and could build on the very detailed work done by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation about 25 April 191597. Their work includes a 3D representation of the area around Gallipoli based on maps from the time. A game, a very serious game, would fit as a Turkish local studies site, and the Turkish information could help provide a better sense of perspective for Australian and New Zealand school students studying this area. In Australia using games based in a digital reconstruction for both Port Jackson and Botany Bay would enhance understanding of that part of history and settlement. It would be particularly useful as a multiplayer game so that people could try out the roles of Indigenous people, the military, the convicts and the sailors. While this only fits as a local studies game for a few council areas, it would have benefit for many in their understanding of Australian history. Rome reborn98 is an international collaboration which provides an example of a very sophisticated data set which has the potential to be used for an online
game. Ultimately Rome reborn will provide snapshots of Rome over time. Elements of this can be seen Second life with some of the heritage cultural elements there, however, most games have the potential for a smoother interface. In any planning for a local studies game promotion and evaluation would need to be planned as well. How will people find out about the game? The methods of promotion will vary slightly depending upon each game. Evaluation also has to be considered at the planning stage so that it is possible to measure, at least some elements of, the effectiveness of the game. The evaluation needs to be cost effective and as unobtrusive as possible for the players. It also has to provide the information which is required for reporting within the organization. As well consideration should be given to preservation issues relating to the game as well as to any heritage content which is used. A major challenge is encouraging others to see the potential of games based around local studies. There are numerous local stories which could be revealed by games, and games could help with local decision making. There are a small number of impressive examples already available for people to refer to including the work by DOK with Microsoft surface and Dark ink, Vikingeruten or the Viking trail in Denmark, Picture the impossible, Sydney sidetracks, eTreasure, REXplorer and the Orange County Library System in Florida Second Life presence for the Central Florida Memory project. It will be important for more people to find out about these examples and consider local applications for their community. Local studies is an exciting area, and games may be able to help more people come to realise this and to learn about the rich histories of communities they live in or visit. Local studies is not the only area where games could help people with their library experience. Other library games Online games can be used as discovery tools about the library. There have also been some very effective live action role playing games used for library discovery as well, usually with the theme of solving a murder in the library. A few universities have found this method very effective as an introduction to library services99100101 Playing online games are about learning skills, and sometimes doing not particularly interesting things (hence the term grinding) as a way of advancing levels so that you can do much more interesting things. There needs to be an adequate incentive to put up with the less interesting parts of games. Think of possibilities like games to help people use the library catalogue. Using a catalogue or different databases and other resources is like going through levels in a game. Each level of research needs new skills just as each level in a game needs new skills. Can your catalogue and other online research provide this much of an incentive? The American Library Association, ALA, has been successful in obtaining funding from Verizon for grants to explore ways that games can be used to assist in increasing literacy102. No information is yet available about an evaluation of this funding, but it will be very interesting to see what the results look like. As well as this grant funding, ALA has been collecting examples of best practice use of games in libraries103 as part of the Library gaming toolkit104. While not all examples used are about online games as many board games provide an excellent basis for learning, some are and include using a geocaching treasure hunt based on To kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee105, online game creation workshops106107 and using Fantasy football to teach information literacy to footballers at university108.
The possibilities for using online games to provide information are almost endless, you just need to think creatively about what is possible, and work with your clients. Conclusion There are many ways online games can be used as part of the library information environment. You could use machinima to provide information to people. Machinima are films made using games environments, they are often short films and cover a very wide range of topics. There could be some good partnerships if you have a local university which does film or games work and it may also be an interesting collaboration with local game players who write music and songs. They are similar in concept to some tools like xtranormal109. Games also have a lot of potential for encouraging other content creation as well – such as creative writing, similar to come of the creative writing coming out of the games of dungeons and dragons. There are some very imaginative uses of online games by libraries, for example the Central Arkansas Library System runs World of Warcraft sessions for their community as a way of building community110. There is also a World of Warcraft in schools program111 which is encouraging students to learn real life skills (which they had not picked up in school) in a structured game playing environment. Games may be used for information purposes, for a sense of fun, because of their immersive nature, or because people understand how games work and can extrapolate these skills in other contexts. Partnerships are probably the way forward, working with games experts for ideas how to use them and on the creation and development of games. Libraries can use online or mobile games as a way of reaching new clients, or reaching existing clients in new ways. They can give different ways of connecting your collection and your community. Games also open up the possibility of multi institutional collaborations as museums, libraries and archives work together to provide historic discovery games. We might not be able to play Vikingeruten or the Viking trail, but we could play games about the history of Broken Hill, the migration history of Cabramatta or the indigenous history of Brewarrina. The games could help the players understand the issues which dominated a particular time, and also to discover the historic objects which may be in local as well as distant collections. How do you find out more? You can read blogs, tweets, articles and books about this area of information. There is much excellent work being done in this area, but sooner or later you will have to play if you don’t already. If you do play games think about how you play games. Watching someone else play is a start, just as watching someone read is not the same experience as reading, although it is a start. Talk with people who play games. Think about the kind of information and skills which it is possible to learn within games. Find some partners to work with you, perhaps some of the universities teaching game design would be interested in having their students work with you?
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