American University and DC Public Library partner for neighborhood games and outdoor stories | Communication school
Find out more about a local sculpture by texting it. Take an audio tour or take a walk using a cell phone. Soon, people from 25 communities could learn to create outdoor games and other interactive experiences like these in their library.
Two years of funding begins this month for the American University Game Center and the DC Public Library (DCPL) to provide libraries of tools, training and models for creating neighborhood games. Funding of $ 249,896 comes from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), which is the primary source of federal support for libraries and museums across the country.
Called ‘Engaging Beyond Our Walls’, the project addresses three needs that public libraries lack: basic training in game design for communities, successful game models resulting in community participation, including with links to the community. local history and public space, free creation tools that are quite easy for non-technical users to create games.
Residents of more than 20 towns and villages will create hundreds of outdoor games and interactive stories with this grant. The games are created with Hive Mechanic, a game engine for neighborhoods that does not require any coding skills to use. To better bridge the digital divide and support social distancing during COVID, most games will be playable with accessible technologies, including text messaging, QR codes and public screens.
The project will provide libraries with the tools, training and models they need to tell DIY stories to bring digital collections and technology together, with residents themselves as the creators. Libraries will leverage their expertise in media literacy and local information to help democratize civic play, amplify hidden voices, and engage new audiences in the public space.
“Libraries are often the only institutions in neighborhoods that provide both civic and community content,” said Benjamin Stokes, project director and associate professor at American University (AU). “With this grant, we can demonstrate that local and interactive games can connect us more deeply to our physical streets and local history, and ultimately to our neighborhood and our community.”
AU Game Center explores the impact of games and gambling in contexts such as health, education, politics and governance. The project was inspired by Stokes’ recent book, “Locally Played”. DCPL will guide the development of the program around local history and the video training needed to scale up the project.
Stokes said, “Previously, game creation in libraries focused on screen media, from Minecraft to Scratch, often with a youth focus in STE (A) M initiatives. In contrast, we emphasize play and engagement primarily outdoors and showcasing the strengths and voices of the community in the public space. During the pandemic, for example, outdoor “story walks” gained popularity in libraries, but they are almost exclusively analog – not interactive. “
The proposed grant will reach the national level through three cycles of workshops. In the first year, five “exemplary libraries” in the Mid-Atlantic region (including rural libraries and small libraries) will hold workshops in their own libraries and help create our training videos on the needs of librarians and their actual use. Our second year will revolve around online and asynchronous training. Each call for nominations will result in more than ten additional towns / villages / tribal regions. The project will result in free training materials, game models and creative tools for libraries to use with their communities.
Impact monitoring will be led by the AU School of Communication’s Center for Media and Social Impact (CMSI). CMSI is one of the leading national centers for assessing the impact of media on civic and community engagement.
The open source software behind Hive Mechanic was developed by Audacious Software and the AU Game Center. Audacious Software specializes in low-tech approaches to mobile media, including text messaging and multimedia to reach audiences. Initial funding for Hive Mechanic was provided by the AU Marshal’s Office and the AU School of Communication.
Teddy Consulting is the project manager for creating videos and tutorials for residents to create their own interactive games and stories.
The project was made possible in part by the Institute of Museum and Library Services. “As pillars of our communities, libraries and museums bring people together by providing important programs, services and collections. These institutions are places of trust where people can learn, explore and grow, ”said Crosby Kemper, Director of IMLS. “IMLS is proud to support their initiatives through our grants as they educate and improve their communities.