Thursday, December 06, 2007

Jenny Levine recently wrote about a researcher from the University of Michigan looking for external library partners to test and build upon an information literacy game that has been built. According to Jenny, the prototype is fully functional. Using evidence from initial testing, they are already thinking about how to improve the approach taken with the game. Read more about this collaborative approach from the Shifted Librarian post.

Monday, November 12, 2007

For a glimpse into the world of a game developer, Kyle Wilson's blog "Game Architect.Net" discusses pertinent topics in the field. His personal history page is worth a read for anyone contemplating going into game development as it paints an honest, unglamorous picture. Also, as we tend to think of commercial games as being huge money-makers, Kyle points out another side to the story:
"...of the few lucky games that make it to master and end up on shelves, far fewer still are given the time or money or attention to design that they need to succeed. I've heard that only 30% of games in development ever ship, and that 60-80% of those lose money."

Monday, October 01, 2007

Kathleen Hansen and Nora Paul presented their modding work of Neverwinter Nights at the 2006 EDMEDIA conference. Along with programmer, Matt Taylor, they created a game called "Disaster at Harperville" for their course, "Information for Mass Communication" at the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Minnesota. The game is designed to reinforce information gathering strategies and encouraged such things as message analysis, evaluation and selection of gathered information, synthesis of the information and crafting messages. If you are interested in modding Neverwinter nights for educational purposes, this conference paper is a must read as it discusses the details of modding including the problems they encountered. Kathleen and Nora do a wonderful job of assessing the game as a learning object and also discuss their next steps. They plan to move beyond the Neverwinter Nights environment into an Open source platform which will remove some limitations. In the NWN environment they were concerned about the inability to share their modification to a wider audience who might be interested in using it as a learning aid. One interesting and unexpected outcome they discuss was the students' reaction to the game world library:
...their favorite part of the game was the library! They mentioned how helpful
the librarian character was and how rich the information resources were. If this
kind of appreciation of a virtual space could translate to off-line behavior and
use of the library, this would be a wonderful unintended outcome of the game.

Paul, N. & Hansen, K. (2006). Disaster at Harperville: The modding of Neverwinter Nights to teach journalism students the strategic steps in information gathering. In E. Pearson & P. Bohman (Eds.), Proceedings of World Conference on Educational Multimedia, Hypermedia and Telecommunications 2006 (pp. 1954-1959).

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Games, Learning and Society 3.0

I finally got around to providing brief overviews and some thoughts on the sessions at GLS held in Madison Wisconsin, July 12-13. You can find them stashed at Liblaureate.

If you're looking for notes from some of the sessions you can find them at The Shifted Librarian, July 12 and July 13. Also check out more comments at Tidbits of Interest.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

I recently had a chance to meet with and listen to University of Calgary librarians, Chris Thomas and Jerremie Clyde, who presented their ongoing work and research into game-based learning at the University of Waterloo. For their game "Hard Play" they have selected the game engine from HalfLife 2 to keep it engaging and immersive. Chris and Thomas emphasized the importance of first looking at game-play when building a game. The next important aspect should be the narrative. Once these elements have been established, learning goals can be looked at. It has to be fun first if it is to work at all. The modding community surrounding HalfLife is quite substantial and this has been a big help for Chris & Jerremie. They have developed various rooms thus far that look eerily similar to their library in a not-so-distant dystopic future. When staff were shown the game screenshots they immediatley recognized various spaces in the library. Chris & Jerremie are tapping into the web 2.0 principle by sharing all that they learn as they continue to build "Hard Play". I'm looking forward to watching it progress. Follow along with them here:

Monday, May 14, 2007

Website for Hardplay

FYI for those interested - Jerremie and I have created a website for HardPlay, which is our research into modifying a first person point of view, action adventure commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) game to evaluate the effectiveness of digital game based learning for transforming undergraduate students into information literate researchers. You can find it at

Monday, May 07, 2007

Quarantined: Axl Wise and the Information Outbreak

Tammy Allgood , Digital Delivery and Design Librarian at ASU at the West campus
Bee Gallegos, Librarian, Lower Division Coordinator at ASU at the West campus
Karen Grondin, Library Specialist at ASU at the West campus

Last week at the LOEX conference in San Diego, the librarians from Arizona State University presented on their game Quarantined. This spring was their first semester using the game in a classroom and they have feedback from student use during classes.

Unfortunately, they described the feedback as "kind of depressing" and found that the students are "not learning what they thought they would." Although the feedback from the students was not as positive as they hoped, I believe they close to having a game that meets some of their objectives.

Try the game out for yourself - Quarantined (username: loex; password: 2007). The trial will be up for about 3 weeks.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Matthew Weise - Educational Game Creation Interview

Matthew Weise spoke at GDC this past March about using commercial off the shelf (COTS) games for education. Weise created the game Revolution, while he was at MIT. I spoke in detail with Matt after GDC last month about his experience and insights for others looking to create educational games.

Revolution - Reflections from Matthew Weise
The first part of the interview focused on his design and creation of the game.
The main goal of the project was to create a believable simulation of colonial Williamsburg. Learning in the game did not come as a result of packaged content delivered in the game, it came through playing. Video games help teach history, not as a narrative, but as a process.
The second part of the interview covers the hurdles and challenges they encountered using a COTS game engine. The final part of the interview includes Matt's philosophy on educational games:
Weise cautioned not to make video games the “medicine in the apple sauce.”
Matt also gave some tips for others looking to get started, including let the game engine help dictate the learning objectives and give the project time.

Matt's comments tie in nicely to the previous discussions from January on this site. You can view Matthew Weise's powerpoint slides from GDC... here.
Chris Thomas and Jerremie Clyde from the University of Calgary will be presenting their research and ongoing work incorporating game-based learning with information literacy at the upcoming Canadian National Higher Education Information Technology Conference held this year in Waterloo, Ontario.

Here is the abstract of their presentation:
Hard Play: Digital Game Based Learning and Information Literacy
The ability of Digital Game Based Learning to motivate, to engage and to shape the learner's thinking makes games an attractive choice for eLearning. Using a compelling narrative and entertaining game play, libraries can immerse learners in situations that allow them to use research tools and resources in complex problem solving. The presenters will introduce the theory and potential of digital game based learning and its relevance to libraries. They will discuss their ongoing research into modifying a first person point of view, action adventure commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) game to evaluate the effectiveness of digital game based learning for transforming undergraduate students into information literate researchers.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Scott Rice and Amy Harris from the University of North Carolina Greensboro have graciously made their Information Literacy game available to other libraries for download and adaptation under the Creative Commons licence.

Thanks Scott & Amy!

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Serious Game Engine Shootout

In keeping with our ongoing discussion on using game engines (orignial or commerical), there is a nice piece over at Serious Games Source. They posted a comparison on a variety of game engine that can be used to make educational games. The first few are pretty are pricey as professional engines, but around page 3 the price starts to come down. Even Neverwinter Nights gets a mention.

If you've been interested in our discussions here about other creating games or have an idea but not sure how to put it into code. This article is worthwhile. The comparision gave me a few other game engine ideas and provide techinical specifics on each.
The Altered Learning project is one project (in the UK of course) using the Neverwinter Nights game engine. I found this through the Learning in Immersive Worlds report, which was so recently posted on this very site!

I think the key is the spin-off learning activities that the students are required to do - they are still required to record their responses. Can a library mod transfer accomplish the same thing without curriculum support? Would students be AS interested if the long-term value was not easily recognizable?

"Altered Learning does just what is says on the tin. It provides effective alternative learning and teaching tools with the characteristics of a game, yet with the content of the traditional curriculum.

It’s a difficult balance to achieve but by modifying a commercial adventure game it has been done with great success.

It all began as an attempt to engage some rather reluctant learners. When teaching key skills in communication and application of number, learners much prefer to be sitting in front of a computer than a workbook, so a game was ingeniously devised that required the learners to learn by having to get through traps and pitfalls. The engine in the award winning Neverwinter Nights computer game had intricate coding incorporated in its programming so that the game produced a lot of the evidence for recognised KEY SKILL qualifications."

Sunday, February 18, 2007

While a few other blogs picked up on this on late last week, not many have dug into all 73 pages of de Freitas Game-based Learning Report. The report itself is a nice combination of literature reviews and case studies of programs using video games to teach. In fact the report ties in nicely to Christy and Chris's posts about the use of Neverwinter Nights and other mods for instructional gaming. The report uses Neverwinter Nights and other games as case studies... all of which could give us, as librarians, ideas for modding games to fit our instructional needs.

Here are some of the other highlights of the report, from both the literature review and the case studies:
- While games for education and learning are often advocated, the assessment is limited.
- Games do help students reach learning objectives, but they are not always the same objectives as initially desired.
- Games, by themselves can only do so much, but with discussion & supplemental materials games are very successful in reaching the learning objectives
- Like any educational technology, video games should have clearly defined learning objectives.
- There needs to be a development of a "best practices" application for those educators looking to integrate games into their classrooms

Overall this is a good report for both those already involved in educational gaming (the case studies and bibliography are both worthy of follow up study) and those just starting to get interested in video games in education (the introduction, summary, and definitions are a good place to start).

There is also some discussion about the need to standardized the terminology and vocabulary for educational games and games for learning. The report states there is a variety of definitions between commercial and educational games, and thus creates confusion for both educators and students. I would argue that creating a separate vocabulary for educational games may end up isolating our games from the immersion and motivation of traditional mass market games. Give it a read and let me know what you think...

Check out the full report here.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Following Christy's post about mods - I agree that it is definitely one approach. It can be straightforward if using the generic world but altering the functions requires some programming.

In England, they've used the Half-Life mod to create DoomEd, a single-player first person shooter learning game that combines science and history with FPS action, taking players through the horror of bio-terrorism and WWII chemical experimentation gone wrong. It's aimed at high school students.
I know that things have been fairly hush-hush over at Arizona State but I did finally stumble across their project website. I'd love to hear a report if anyone is heading to LOEX in San Diego.

Fletcher Library Game Project

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Mods might be the best answer. Using commercial game engines to design an educaitonal game seems sensible. The likelihood that librarians or educators could create something comparable to the games students love to play is very slim. So, why not use a Mod (modification)? A colleague of mine has directed me to the game Neverwinter Nights. There are some current academic projects on the go using this game engine. See MIT & University of Wisconsin's "Revolution": or read about the University of Minnesota's School of Journalism and Mass Communication's project.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

If you're looking for a comprehensive overview of gaming and libraries, you must get a copy of the Sept/Oct issue of Library Technology Reports. In 9 chapters, Jenny Levine introduces the gaming generation, explores the cognitive processes involved in gaming, details how to set up games and tournaments in your library, and presents interesting case studies of how games are being used in public, school and academic libraries. This is a must read for anyone interested in gaming in libraries.
Levine, J. (2006). Gaming & libraries: Intersection of services. Library Technology Reports, 42(5)

If you've been working on developing a great game or are interested in discussing the gaming topic, a call has gone out for presenters for the next Gaming in Librabries Symposium:

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Here is yet another library game using quiz-style questions. I haven't had a chance to play it yet, as they suggest it may take 45-60 minutes to play. From a peak at the review section, it looks as though they cover quite a lot of material for developing research skills.

Info Game: