Monday, April 6, 2009

Focus Group - Part 2

Last night I invited my gaming students to come back to the library to talk some more about games. This time I made them crepes rather than a whole meal, and that seemed to be a good incentive. I took a picture of the group, which I will upload here soon.

One of the students was a writing tutor, and spends a lot of time at the Academic Resource Center on the 3rd floor of the library, which currently houses our print periodicals collection. She says she sees many scared, bewildered students who wander into the tutors' space to ask how to find an article or journal. She proposed having an online game just for finding journal articles and using ILL. They got excited about this game having an Indiana Jones type of theme, and it could be called "Raiders of the Lost Journal" or some play on the movie.

They suggested having a game for each of the major intro classes, esp. intro to psychology, and intro to sociology.

One student lamented the fact that other librarians (nationwide) weren't getting into this. He's in a program where his professors bring him into the library for every class. A game would make it more pleasant for those students who already know all of the resources, while at the same time, bringing other students who don't know this up to speed.

We talked a little bit about (live) Zombie Tag, and they suggested I play the video game Left for Dead. In this game, you can choose to be human or a zombie. (I've since learned that they play Zombie Tag at Elizabethtown, a librarian at a workshop I'm currently at has said she'll put me in touch with the head zombie tag person).

I told them that the Freshman Dean is interested in this idea of Big Games to use for orientation. So we spent a lot of time talking about orientation, though they focused on the library orientation moreso than the entire campus. I will point out right here that freshman orientation in the library is not my project, but I didn't want to put any constraints on their creativity. Even if the other librarians are not interested in turning orientation into a giant, silly CSI spoof, I could use this for classes.

They remembered library orientation as being full of chaos and confusion. They were completely overwhelmed and didn't learn anything because of it. One student suggested splitting the activities over two days, or pushing it back a week or two away from all of the other orientation activities.

Then we got into the murder mystery theme. What if each group of freshmen come into the library and see a body outline in masking tape on the floor. We can say a librarian got killed (the librarian part was my suggestion, but I have got to think of the implications of that) and they have 15 minutes to solve the murder. Then we started bringing in CSI themes. During the instructions, a student could do a Horatio Cane spoof, saying in a deep voice, "A picture is worth a thousand words... unless it's one word... murder." This is something he had done and posted on YouTube, complete with The Who playing at the end.

They were all very eager to be a part of this as we were brainstorming. They want to come back to school a day early to volunteer.

We agreed the sillier, the better. In the end, we thought an encyclopedia could be the murderer. We could bring in a video element as a clue, have it play in the screening room. Perhaps it could be a security video. We talked about ways to make a Web site be a witness. Three or more people could be in a line-up, with signs or t-shirts labeling what type of site they are. Some would be databases, others places like Wikipedia. The students could then interrogate them and determine their credibility. The basement could be the morgue. There could be some kind of anatomical puzzle that when assembled, forms another clue.

They really want a campus-wide event to celebrate National Library Week. They know it can't be this year, since it's in a week, but we could organize something for next year. I brought up Banned Books Week. I asked them if they would be interested in a game where I hung pictograms around the campus, I'd probably have to provide some type of map, and each pictogram's solution would be the title of a banned or controversial book. All of the correct answers could be entered into a raffle for a small prize. We had a great time imagining a poster of a bunch of grapes with a face, on it's knees in agony (Grapes of Wrath). We could get English and education students involved.

They suggested I talk to Geoffry Knauth who is a computer science teacher, about some Flash problems I'm having. I really need to find a go-to person for Flash and ActionScript who would be willing to answer questions in exchange for home-made food. Geoffry may or may not know anything about ActionScript, but he might know people who do. The also suggested checking out some popular developers' forums and e-mail the creators of similar Flash games online.

They brought up the idea of getting the librarian at the reference desk involved in the real-world part of my video games. This is something I had already been planning for next year, so I was happy to hear them mention it. I asked the one student who had been in an actual class where I used my monster game for instruction if it made students feel any less likely to seek me out at the reference desk. He didn't think so, but that triggered a discussion of why students are afraid to approach librarians. The students felt personal relationships with librarians are really important, and will make students feel more comfortable asking questions. At orientation, perhaps we could share silly facts about each librarian, and have them match up which of us fits each fact.

They suggested for my plagiarism game (I forgot to have them give me a better title for it!) to change the mouse cursor to cross hairs since you're trying to kill the goblins. They think it's okay that it is essentially a trivia game because the packaging of it is so much fun. They're really excited about this one.

Some other games they recommended I check out are Syberia (probably not spelled like that), which is Myst-like, and Dracula's Last Sanctuary which was available at Wal-Mart. The Dracula game sounds less complex (Myst is over my head), and I like vampire stories, so I think I will check that one out next.

Overall, it was a very productive night. I think the information I got from this group will not only be helpful for my games, but for other aspects of the library as well.

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