Thursday, October 25, 2007

ARGs and library orientation

OK - well this was always going to be interesting (to me anyway) but I feared it might not live up to my expectations, which, by the time I got there were pretty high. Right, let me start by getting the logistics out of the way - Trinity is a small liberal arts university (2,400 students with an intake of approx 660 per year), it is a residential university and it is mandatory that all students live on campus for at least 3 years. The idea was to provide a fun way for students to get a feel for the way the library works and the resources/facilities available.

btw, I really like this definition for ARG - Alternate Reality Gaming is, according to CNET " obsession-inspiring genre that blends real-life treasure hunting, interactive storytelling, video games and online community..." (

The ARG is called "Blood on the Stacks" and this is the second year it runs. This is another one of those "not sure I can do it justice" posts -but for different reasons. I really wanted to link to the start off video but the link won't stream, so I might need to save that little excitement for another day. Anyway, basically all incoming students were sent an email with a link to the video, Resident Mentors put up flyers in the dorms and the general orientation mentioned it. Based on groupwork (led by their RMs) the students had a couple of hours (in a 2 day window) to look for a series of clues on a "mystery pathway" and figure out who has stolen to Egyptian artifact, needing to cover a range of library resources/services incl - book stock, online resources, tutorials on how to use library, study help, information commons, printing etc - this was sometimes in small groups (2-4 people) other times in full "RM groups" (18 people). Once main challenge completed the groups could stay and do some optional questions for more points (of the 39 groups, 31 groups stayed behind for approx another hour to do more research. Prize was some money (to the RM group) to be spend on a team mini-break during mid-terms (still reinforcing importance of team).

Immersive - physical/digital, fiction/reality, learning/competition
Integrated - RMs as characters, additional media training
Info literate - orientation to resources - applications and behaviours not just resources.

This game was not intended to be "the whole library orientation" - not about how to use every aspect but to create a "mental model" - there is a formal, course specific engagement early in the semester - anecdotally the library and support staff reported feedback from students of feeling more familiar, less alien in the environment, the library was associated with fun and the staff were more approachable.


smodge said...

Sounds like something that could be tried out on the Psalter lane lot when they come down - actually they're probably not the most appropriate group. But it's worth looking at as a model useful to the DF agenda.
Do you know how long it took them to develop and whether the game is generally re-usable year after year?

Louise said...

they do re-use each year but it is still early days so they are still iterating: Re time I'd say it was quite short and a bit crude - although I think that added to the charm and the familiarity. So I don't think it was a lot of work and they made smart use of existing support and marketing channels.

Brian said...

It sounds like a good way of getting the students involved in something. The amount of work does seem a concern. We set up a sort of ARG with the Treasure Hunt, and it did take a fair amount of work, especially considering the number of participants. Making use of existing resources and channels sounds like the best idea.

Louise said...

You're right Brian, one of the things that struck me about their game was that it was quite intensive face to face followed by some opt in activities rather than fully asynchronous - I think this was a major factor in making it manageable.

Louise said...

Excellent - they have posted the link - check out the video... its "special"
Full slides at: Slides on Educause resource space

gs said...

the papier mache snake on the video is - what's the word? - oh yes, "special". but i like the look of the activity itself, particularly as it is defined in terms of time, and links with group and specific real world activities.

brian - i don't agree that the treasure hunt took a lot of work. people can run with it in their own time, and the only additional time required in terms of managing it is checking for new submissions on the bb site, then inviting them to facebook - everything else is self-managed. if people want to run it themselves with students, we can easily hand over control of the later stages by getting them to set up the final steps in their own bb site. i think the individualistic and opt-in nature of it, as well as the timing, contributed to the low completion rate, and that would maybe be something to revisit if we launched something similar again?

Susannah Diamond said...

Great to hear of somewhere that has tried it successfully.

The social aspects in their model must help a lot with uptake. We should think how to build that in.

Andrew Middleton said...

I think Smodge has a good idea (shock) - but extending it how about involving some City Campus students in designing a Welcome ARG that would engage wacky Art studs? It could then be reused on Open Days or incomers.