Rethinking the library game creating an alternative reality with social media
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Rethinking the Library Game: Creating an Alternative Reality with Social Media. Jason J. Battles Valerie D. Glenn Lindley C. Shedd The University of Alabama. Libraries and Gaming. Gaming in Libraries Wii, DDR, Rock Band, board games Libraries in Games Second Life Library Games

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Rethinking the Library Game: Creating an Alternative Reality with Social Media

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Rethinking the Library Game:Creating an Alternative Reality with Social Media

Jason J. Battles

Valerie D. Glenn

Lindley C. Shedd

The University of Alabama

Libraries and Gaming

  • Gaming in Libraries

    • Wii, DDR, Rock Band, board games

  • Libraries in Games

    • Second Life

  • Library Games

    • General focus on information literacy

Libraries and Gaming

  • Why create a library game?

    • Promote information literacy

    • Highlight library resources

    • Engage users

  • Don’t we need a programmer?

    • No. You just need creative staff members, clear game objectives, and web skills.

Learning Objectives of the Game

  • Highlight resources and collections

    • Special Collections

    • Electronic Journals

    • Online Course Reserves

  • Initiate students on how to access and search these resources

  • Encourage critical thinking of participants

What Will Engage Students?

  • “Academic Games Are No Fun”


  • Games they play

    • Halo and Call of Duty

    • MMOGs like World of Warcraft

    • Guitar Hero and Rock Band

  • Online sites they use

    • Facebook

    • YouTube

    • Twitter

Finding the Right Game Format

  • Libraries cannot directly compete with most commercial games

  • Determine your available resources

    • Financial

    • Human

  • Incorporate popular social media sites to engage students where they are

  • Develop manageable game objectives and a strong concept to keep players

Alternate Reality Games (ARG)

  • Web-based and story-driven design

  • Disguises the fact that it is a game at all

  • No defined rules

  • Runs over a fixed period of time

  • Player reveals the plot and goals through interacting with game components

Alternate Reality Games (ARG)


  • This is Not a Game by Dave Szulborski

  • Internet-based and story driven

  • Examples:




  • Indiana University’s ARG work


Why an ARG?

  • Non-traditional approach that is more engaging for players

  • Does not require large budgets or a team of programmers

  • Social media sites are natural locations for game components

  • ARGs have been successful in marketing movies, television shows, and video games

  • Why not libraries?

Our Game - Project Velius

Considerations in Building our ARG

  • Development directed by diverse team of library personnel with limited resources

    • No additional funding

    • No team of programmers

    • Limited student work allotment

  • Game must be completely online

  • Game should be accurate representation of how library resources are accessed and used

Building an ARG

  • Story creation is the most important element of ARGs, but it is also the most difficult

  • The story plays out like a screenplay

  • The creation of game assets is dependent on the creation of the storyline

Project Velius Storyline

  • Developed over several months by three committee members

  • Main character and her boyfriend work at a biotech company

  • He goes missing

  • She uses clues found in library resources and social media venues to find him

Our Game – Project Velius


  • Library Resources

    • Unique historical collection

    • Electronic journal article

    • Online course reserves

  • Social Media Components

  • Web sites

Social Media Components

  • Facebook group

    • Served as the hub of the game

    • Facilitated player interaction

  • Twitter accounts

  • YouTube video

  • WordPress blogs

Web Sites


    • Main gateway for the game


    • Fake biotech corporation involved in a questionable research program


    • Student homework site that was only discoverable through game clues

Running the Game

Running the Game

  • Ran over a six week period from September 17 to October 22, 2009

  • Blogs and Twitter were the main tools used for character interaction

  • Members of the development group took on the roles of the characters

Running the Game - Continued

  • These puppeteers made blog posts and tweets timed by a detailed script

  • They also built the story’s alternate reality through backdated blog entries

  • One person served as a game master to help players via the Facebook group


  • No carrot

  • Flyers, news ad, web ad

  • Bibliographic Instruction sessions

  • Freshman compass courses

  • English 101


  • Web stats

    • Google Analytics

    • WordPress

  • Survey of players

  • End of game event

Lessons Learned

  • Start with a bang!

  • Keep them interested

    • Resist controlling the tempo or gating player progression

    • Consider the length of the game

  • Build something you can easily replicate

  • Find collaborations to help with aspects of the game that are not your strength

Lessons Learned - Continued

  • Understand the limitations and use policies of any social media tools you intend to employ

  • Think about the need to track players

  • Create buy-in among the campus community

Next Steps

  • Follow advancements in technology, gaming, and instruction

  • Continue to examine what motivates players in games

  • Find ways to include students in the creation and development

  • Consider external collaborations

Contact Information

Jason J. Battles

[email protected]

Valerie Glenn

[email protected]

Lindley Shedd

[email protected]

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