Digital Odyssey 2017

OLITA: Digital Odyssey 2017 “We Got Game”

Jolts, Icebreakers, and Live Action Games: Inserting Play into your Presentations
Dr. Scott Nicholson

• Dr. Scott Nicholson is a Professor of Game Design at Laurier, whose lab specializes in analog, physical, tabletop, board and embodied games. Also noted designer of escape rooms.
@snicholson
• Wilfrid Laurier’s game lab is Brantford Games Network Lab (www.bgnlab.ca). Students are art/psych students rather than coders. Focus on games with ‘real world’ impact, such as corporate training games, as well as one they are currently demoing, commissioned by the Ministry of Environment, to teach people about climate change.
• Students from this program have received a grant to partner with libraries to preview a variety of climate change based games they’ve designed to assess what sort of play style patrons are most amenable to.
• Worth keeping an eye on BGNlab as they are also looking to have students design games for libraries in the future.
• Presentation focused largely upon a style of “game” called Jolts. These are quick activities that get the crowd participating. Some are done on their own (works well for those who are shy around strangers) whereas others are meant to get people interacting with one another. In all cases these games required some form of movement or physical activity.
• Also, all Jolts are in some way ‘educational’ or informative. They get the audience to think about something differently. It allows you to draw in your audience and get them engaged.
• The most essential part of a Jolt is the debriefing, which is the learning stage. The best way to debrief is to ask them to walk through the thought process they used to complete the Jolt, and what they could possibly glean from it. Even a ‘failed’ Jolt that does not produce the results desired can still be salvaged by a good debrief
• Debriefing is the point of connection between learning and fun. It also has been proven to increase peoples’ memory for something they’ve learned if they are able to associate an activity with it, and especially one that makes them feel as though they have worked through the learning process.
• I have a list of Jolts + they are easy to find on the web if anyone wants any

Interactive Fiction and Narrative Games Writing
Natalie Zina Walschots, Freelance writer and bailed academic; Kaitlin Tremblay, Writer,
narrative designer, and game developer

• Presentation focused on the necessity of good narrative in games (specifically video but also touched on board, tabletop, roleplaying and other games where narrative features)
• Need for diverse stories/protagonists/characters in narrative gaming. Too long have games focused/highlighted the 30-something white male with a trouble past. Trope is tired and boring and doesn’t reflect the very diverse group of people who ‘play’
• Discussed the difficulties of game writing and reviewing because the experience is shaped to a much greater by the user than that of more traditional linear media.
• Writer has to create everything the user experiences in the game, even minute details and those that may be missed on a playthrough.
• Writer also has to account for the fact that each playthrough will be a different experience.
• Storytelling is important but it also can’t totally make up for bad game mechanics

Lunch
Was delicious

Hand Eye Society Toronto
Jim Munroe and Sagan Yee, Hand Eye Society

• Non-profit that promotes digital literacy through outreach
• Focuses on Toronto based and indie games that often get overlooked by mainstream (which is not to say some games the premiere don’t become famous, such as the mobile game Superbrothers Sword and Sworcery)
• Has a variety of great programs, including a retrofitted arcade box called the “Torontotron”, a black tie gaming event, and Game Jam and coding camps for children
• Unfortunately focuses mostly on Toronto
• Is very mobile as they have no central offices, but they do rely on grants and funding for their programming
• Most of their programs are aimed at allowing children who may not otherwise have access to explore digitial literarcy, game design and coding.
• If they are able to expand outside of Toronto, they may be worth looking into hosting an event with as they are very popular among the global indie game design crowd and demo some amazing and hard to find games
• Further to this, if we were ever to develop a more robust Video Game collection, especially a digital one via the computer rather than console games, they would be an excellent resource and have said they are more than willing to help libraries with their questions, as well as to curate game lists
• This presentation, like others, acknowledged the difficulty of implementing Video Games in the libraries. Due to diverse technologies, some with titles exclusive to that platform, it can be very expensive. Even with an increased focus on multi-platform and PC based gaming, there has yet to be a good system for libraries and schools to purchase and lend out digital games. The most popular distributor of digital games, Steam, is great for individuals but due to licensing, remains an unviable method for libraries. That being said it seems there are a lot of great libraries and programs working on this issue and it might be best to wait for a feasible solution to arise instead of attempting to pioneer it ourselves?

Libraries and Gaming Communities
Lee Puddephatt, Idea Exchange; Zile Ozols,
Brantford Public Library, and Michelle
Goodridge, Wilfrid Laurier University

• Idea Exchange (Cambridge Public Library’s new name) has partnered with Wilfrid Laurier University Brantford campus for its gaming and digital tech programs
• Houses (somewhat temporarily) Wilfrid Laurier’s Brantford library in the public library
• Partnerships with Universities and other institutions is a good idea. Not only can you share resources and ideas but opens up to a variety of audiences
• Idea Exchange has tried lots of different tech programs, including an Instagram contest that has actually led to the teen volunteers facilitating the account as well as writing weekly blogs and bringing a teen perspective to the library
• Teens are also now running an entire, life sized Harry Potter clue that will span the library after hours
• Also have a board game catalogue, but have found the urban centres tend to do better with in-house play and programs whereas rural libraries needed to have the items borrowable. In both instances they have had little issue with theft, damage, etc
• Idea Exchange is also opening up a new building called the Post Office. It will be a four story building without a book collection. Rather it will be made up of labs, makerspaces, a reading room which will be run by a local coffee shop, teen space, etc (https://ideaexchange.org/about/post-office-project)
• Stressed that libraries need to offer programs that match patrons. As the area around Idea Exchange moved from blue collar to gentrification, there was greater request for services targeted towards young people concerning technology and gaming, such as board game nights and maker spaces
• Library also attempted some ‘failed’ plans. Partnering with the University, they offered a few seminars on Gaming from an academic perspective but open to the general public
• Just because a program is ill attended does not mean that there is no market in your community for it, but occasionally it will be because that program genuinely does not meet the needs or wants of the community
• Will continue to work with the university in the future to offer gaming and technology initiatives
• Board game program has been successful. In-library use only with the stipulation that if you take it out you clean it up. Despite the fact that the clean-up rule wasn’t always followed, board games are very poplar

Closing Keynote: Game Jam: Using Games to Explore Advocacy and Engagement
Marianne Mader, Managing Director, Centres
for Earth & Space, Fossils & Evolution, Royal
Ontario Museum; Joseph Wilson, Director,
Business Development, Spongelab Interactive

• ROM runs a Game Jam yearly. Premise of a game jam is that a group of people get together (sometimes children, sometimes adults) and over a limited period of time they create and code a game.
• Each Game Jam usually has a theme. For instance, previous ROM Game Jam was about fossils. Game distribution website itch.io runs a Game Jam where people attempt to create nostalgia based Game Boy-esque games
• ROM has expanded program from just the actual event to bringing what participants create to schools and libraries to gain a broader audience for their collections and research. They are also working on the commercialization of the created games so that they can be brought to an even larger audience from much further away.
• Game Jams allow institutions to highlight parts of their collections, and get users to generate new and novel ways to interact with items that may go unnoticed.
• Libraries can use games, especially virtual games, as a way to create interest around collections and archives that may otherwise go unnoticed
• ROM Game Jam very successful, drawing huge crowd and participants
• I think it is an interesting idea for WPL to consider. That being said, I don’t know if we have enough of a presence yet when it comes to digital tech. I can only imagine a Game Jam type event would draw a crowd only if we started smaller, featuring coding programs for children and youth
• An alternate way to attract interest would be to possibly partner with other local libraries or UOIT. Game Jam could feature the topic of libraries or archives, or perhaps local history, and each participating library could then display and let people interact with the games that had been created *This is just me thinking of possible ideas based on what the presenters have done in the past*
• This sort of digital involvement with things often considered disparate (history, archaeology) not only makes these collections and pieces more accessible (as many are too valuable to allow the general public open access to) but also revitalizes interest. It is potentially a great avenue for libraries and museums to retain relevance (publically anyway, I think most of us agree we are very relevant) without sacrificing our core values.

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