So far this academic year has been one of playful learning. Colleagues in the Library have already run Open Access escape rooms for #OAWeek, used Lego in teaching, and organised a brilliant Stranger Things inspired quest as part of #LibrariesWeek. This post, however, will focus on an online game created for Welcome Week to introduce new students to the Library; one where players had to choose their own adventure and successfully navigate our services to survive a zombie apocalypse.
The game was made using Twine, an open source tool introduced to us by the Technology Enhanced Learning team. Following their training and working through the four stages listed below we were able to increase the reach and variety of our induction programme by creating a simple interactive game that can be completed in five minutes and took less than three hours to build. So if you can make some time for fun and games this Halloween, try it yourself.
Reinforcing our induction message, the goal was to create a game that introduced students to the resources, support and space available to them at the Library. To achieve this, three successive scenarios were written for the game each presenting the player with three choices. Including an opening and closing scene this meant writing 14 passages of text that varied from 25-150 words in length. For example, the first scenario was as follows (with the successful answer leading to the next passage):
On the Twine wiki you will find an official Twine 2 guide (Twine 2 is the current version) which provides guidance on using the tool. As this gives detailed instructions on creating your first story only a simple overview will be included here. Twine games are essentially a series of webpages, each containing a passage of text, which are linked together by the different possible choices a player can make. For the maker of the game, these passages are added to a canvas where the route through the story can be visualised and passages edited:
3. Special Effects
As the game consists of webpages, each page/passage/scenario can be edited using HTML. CSS can also be applied across the whole game to customise by editing the story stylesheet. The example below shows how the link text was changed to white when a player hovers over a particular option. This created a monochrome colour combination that was both accessible and atmospheric:
Photos of the Library were added to each passage using appropriate HTML <img>, <alt> and <class> tags. The photos were edited using a basic Android app to give them a frame and filter suited to the monochromatic theme:
The game was published online using philome.la which at the time was the recommended platform for Twine hosting but has since become a read-only site where new games can’t be added. There are a number of alternatives on the Twine Wiki though. Once published a link to the game was added to the Library homepage for Welcome Week. This offered an alternative to our tours and provided a valuable online component to our inductions. Colleagues have also used it in subsequent lectures to introduce students to key Library services in an engaging way.
With such a wide application it has certainly been worth the small time investment in creating. Philome.la does not provide analytics on usage so feedback, although positive, has been anecdotal. For those still unconvinced, it can be used for more than games: I know a developer who uses Twine to create wireframes that better reflect possible user journeys through a site. So don’t be scared, try it out this Halloween!