The Complexities of Video Games and Education: In the Library, the Museum, Schools and Universities

panel / roundtable
  1. 1. Stella Wisdom

    British Library

  2. 2. Andrew Burn

    Institute of Education - University College London

  3. 3. Sally Bushell

    University of Lancaster

  4. 4. James Butler

    University of Lancaster

  5. 5. Xenia Zeiler

    University of Helsinki

Work text
This plain text was ingested for the purpose of full-text search, not to preserve original formatting or readability. For the most complete copy, refer to the original conference program.

This panel explores several research projects that use video games and digital game making tools as methods for engaging learners of all ages with digitised collections from libraries, archives and museums to facilitate new understandings of historical and cultural events, or create new media adaptations and interpretations of classic literary works.
The panel includes presentations from collaborative research projects, which investigate how video game software can be used in different learning environments to actively engage children, young people and adults with social issues, history and literature. These projects include a presentation on British Library digital initiatives, such as the Off the Map game design competition, online interactive fiction writing jams and their interactive fiction writing summer schools.
There are then two speakers who have worked collaboratively with the British Library on educational video game projects.
Playing Beowulf from University College London's Institute of Education, is a project that has produced their own digital game authoring tool for schools, MissionMaker, which enables users to make their own adaptations of classic literary texts. Whereas educational Minecraft project
Litcraft, led by Lancaster University, uses the popular Minecraft gaming platform to build accurate scale models of authorial maps from classic works of literature; which are then used as virtual environments for classroom learning activities set in locations of the book narratives.

The fourth speaker examines educational videogames in India and includes an introduction to a new game project from the University of Helsinki. Who are collaborating with an Indian game development studio, to create a game based on the Indian festival Durgapuja, which is designed for international audiences and for use by numerous academic disciplines, for teaching aspects of contemporary Indian society and culture. [280 words]

Places of inspiration; digital interactive writing and literary game making in libraries
Interactive fiction and literary game making encourage writers and readers to explore new ways of engaging with stories and narratives. Furthermore, digitised collections from galleries, libraries, archives and museums can be used to create new media adaptations and interpretations of classic literary works. There are a growing number of easy to use digital tools offering new ways for library users to curate and tell stories beyond the printed book and the spoken word. This paper is an overview and evaluation of experiments and collaborations, which have used British Library digital collections in creative projects.
It covers the Off the Map game design competition, which set UK higher education students the task of creating video games, text adventures and virtual interactive environments using digitised British Library ‘assets’ including maps, views, texts, illustrations and recorded sounds as creative inspiration. These competitions were themed to coincide with British Library exhibitions on gothic literature, William Shakespeare and
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Submitted entries offered completely new interpretations of the Library’s collections and for the
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland theme a playable version of the winning game was included in the physical exhibition in the Library.

This paper will also discuss the British Library’s involvement with online interactive fiction writing jams, ran in partnership with Surrey Libraries and 
Read Watch Play
: a global online reading group that has monthly themes. In 2017 Odyssey Jam was held for the water theme and in 2018 a Gothic Novel Jam celebrated the 200th year anniversary of the publication of Mary Shelley’s 
. UK game development company, Media Molecule, created an entry with their new game development engine
. The Bitsy game development community also engaged, using their software to create 1980s retro style 2D games.

Gothic Novel Jam received 46 entries from all around the world including the UK, Australia, America and France. Most entries were interactive fiction, 2D and 3D explorer games, but other types of submissions included a digital headstone generator, an atmospheric audio soundscape and a table-top role playing storytelling game based on a Victorian séance. Participants were encouraged to use the British Library's vast collection of public domain images available on Flickr Commons. Often the images, like the gothic novel genre, was used as inspiration. However, some works incorporated the images as an integral part of the story;
As a Glow Brings Out a Haze
is an example of an entry that used the Library’s digitised book illustration images as a key element of the storytelling in the game.

Finally, this paper will cover interactive fiction writing summer schools held at the British Library in 2017 and 2018. Using Twine, an open-source programme for writing interactive narratives, over five intense days, adult participants learned how to build non-linear digital story games with expert tuition from specialists in interactive storytelling. [465 words]

Playing Beowulf: gaming the library
This paper will present outcomes from two research projects, which developed a Unity-based games authoring tool, MissionMaker, to allow users to make their own adaptations of classic literary texts. One of these, in collaboration with the British Library, was the Anglo-Saxon poem
Beowulf; the other, still in progress, features the Shakespeare play
Macbeth. The talk will draw on examples from a range of participants of different ages, arguing that game-making can transform engagement with such texts, in terms of understanding of narrative, literary value and the processes of reading and interpretation. The projects also suggested the value of games as a way of animating the archive: of inserting historical fictions into contemporary landscapes of play. Finally, the conjunction of literary adaptation, game design and rule-making, also suggested how games allow a bridging of the notorious and persistent arts-science divide: how literary narrative can become computable, and how computer science can craft poetic forms. [153 words]

Litcraft: re-engaging children with literature through Minecraft

This paper will be about a project undertaken in partnership with The British Library and The Wordsworth Trust as part of the
Chronotopic Cartographies project (which features as another panel proposal). The paper is centred on
Litcraft (also offered as a workshop at DH 2019) which uses the popular Minecraft gaming platform to build accurate scale models of authorial maps from classic works of literature (e.g.
Treasure Island;
Kenzuke’s Kingdom;
Robinson Crusoe). Impact is achieved by re-engaging children (primarily though not exclusively) with literature in a model of positive reinforcement that makes works accessible in entirely new ways, combining the textual and the digital. Reading and writing are integrated with an immersive experience of the literary world.

The paper will be in two parts, relating to our work with museums and libraries. The first part articulates the original development of the
Litcraft project out of a pilot project called
Lakescraft, which used an Ordnance Survey Minecraft map of the Lake District to embed interdisciplinary activities into the landscape. The
Litcraft project further builds on this model directly in work undertaken for The Wordsworth Trust, Grasmere. As part of the re-design of the museum site for 2020 we are creating a digital resource that maps Wordsworth’s autobiographical poetic memories (“Spots of Time”) in the landscape of the lakes. This resource will then be integrated in a central corridor between museum spaces to engage children with the landscape in an imbedded way through
Litcraft (using the O.S. map and placing poetry within the landscape) but will also connect children actively to items in the museum itself.

The second part of the paper will be on our work with libraries through the “Litcraft in Libraries” scheme. As well as having the British Library as a major partner we also work with five different regions in the UK to deliver the resource to children through the library space. The paper will describe the resource created for Robert Louis Stevenson’s
Treasure Island. In preparation for the immersive activity, children read and study the character of Jim Hawkins (the boy hero); they read the chapter “My Shore Adventure” in which Jim hides in the boat and runs ashore against the wishes of the adults. Children then enter the Minecraft world (an accurate scale replica of the map of Treasure Island given at the start of Stevenson’s book) and themselves run all over it finding various objects and using Stevenson’s map to help them negotiate the digital world. Textual and immersive worlds work
together to increase empathetic and spatial understanding and motivate both reading and writing. We will talk through the resources themselves as well as the range of ways they have been delivered across libraries.

Litcraft has the most powerful impact on pedagogy and on individual readers – potentially changing reluctant readers into lifelong readers. But it also has an impact on use of, and numbers of, visitors to libraries and museums and on larger accessibility to and understanding of literary culture and heritage. [497 words]

The complexities of video games as teaching tools: educational game development for teaching indian culture and society
While DH is often understood to first and foremost develop and provide digital tools and methods to support Humanities (and Social Sciences) informed research, in a wider understanding, the discipline also comprises the researching of the interconnections of digital technology and culture at large. This includes video games, as today, games actively contribute to construct perceptions of norms, values, identities, and society in general. Games are increasingly complex, interactive virtual worlds which, among other things, can be used for transmitting information or knowledge about certain subjects.
Especially educational games do so in a very conscious and straightforward way. They are developed specifically to either teach or, in a more subtle way, to draw attention to and offer background knowledge on certain topics. A number of studies highlight the additional benefits of the immersion and emotional factors which educational games offer, as an additional value in education as compared to traditional teaching.
For instance, currently and within the larger video game boom in India, we find an innovative development: some pioneering games from especially so-called indie (independent) studios produce educational games, which take up specific issues in society and try to bring them to the awareness of a broader audience – to educate a larger audience about a specific problem or issue. The game MISSING: A GAME FOR A CAUSE is a perfect example for this. The game is part of an art project, which was initiated to draw attention to the abduction of girls in India. In India today, about 3 million girls are trafficked every year. This game attests for the changing landscape in Indian game development, and for the increasing awareness of game developers just how much games can interrelate with society.
Recently, we find additional efforts also in the academic sector. This paper will introduce to the first educational video game for teaching contemporary Indian society and culture, which is in the final development phase. The joint effort of the speaker and an Indian game development studio produced a game introducing to selected core aspects of the highly popular Indian festival Durgapuja. This game version is targeted at university students with little or no background knowledge on the subject yet; that is, it is designed as an introduction to contemporary Indian culture and society. The game will be available through open access and can be used internationally and in numerous disciplines. [393 words]

If this content appears in violation of your intellectual property rights, or you see errors or omissions, please reach out to Scott B. Weingart to discuss removing or amending the materials.