Games and Gamification in Academic Libraries

ACRL announces the publication of Games and Gamification in Academic Libraries, edited by Stephanie Crowe and Eva Sclippa, which explores the ways in which today’s array of games and gaming techniques can be used in academic library instruction, programming, and outreach initiatives.

Learn more about Games and Gamification in Academic Libraries in this excerpt from the introduction, licensed under an Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0) Creative Commons license.

Introduction

The term “game,” despite play seemingly being intrinsic to the human condition, is surprisingly difficult to define. In “The Game Definition Game: A Review,” game studies scholar Jaakko Stenros collected more than sixty definitions of games from the 1930s on, attempting to discover in the common ground between these definitions a set of agreed-upon traits. He ultimately presents ten common elements—questions game scholars can answer to generate their own definitions. [i] For our purposes, however, we can draw on some of the common elements discovered in this process and define a game as an (ideally) enjoyable activity, structured with a set of rules, which actively engages the player or players in attempting to achieve some end goal. A game may be competitive or cooperative and may or may not involve physical or tangible game parts.

As a somewhat more recent concept, defining “gamification” is a less complex task. J. Dale Prince concisely defines gamification as the process of incorporating “elements of gameplay in nongame situations.” [ii] It is worth noting that the elements defining either gameplay or gamification are not specifically defined, and this flexibility is often key to the successful implementation of games and gamification strategies in a library setting. Though gamification is most traditionally associated with the use of badging or rewards to enhance motivation in instruction, the authors included in this book demonstrate the great range of possibilities for gamification (and gaming) in libraries, including everything from using escape rooms to immerse students in the challenge of exploring library resources to using circulating board game collections to foster positive student-faculty relationships.

In 2008, ACRL published this book’s predecessor, Gaming in Academic Libraries: Collections, Marketing, and Information Literacy.[iii] The previous decade had seen a drastic increase in academic libraries’ interest in various uses of games and gaming: a quick search in the LISA database found 127 publications during the 1990s; from 2000 to 2008, there were 714. [iv] Academic librarians were beginning to try out game collections, [v] games in information literacy instruction,[vi] and gaming as outreach and engagement. [vii] At the time, perhaps reflecting the larger culture, the emphasis was on online and video games: video game collections, online information literacy games, and video game strategies for information literacy instruction.

Since 2008, as tabletop board games have experienced a cultural renaissance, academic libraries have expanded their focus to include analog games and gaming as well. More recent literature describes a larger and simultaneously more targeted vision of what a game collection in an academic library should be: support for student success and engagement and the institution’s curriculum. [viii] Academic librarians also began to apply gamification and games-based learning to their work, commonly in information literacy [ix] but also for outreach and student success. [x] This trend has arisen at the same time as active learning and flipped classroom instruction have become increasingly the norm, with some instruction programs including elements of each. [xi]

Additional recent trends in games and gaming in academic libraries reflect current issues in higher education as well as the broader cultural landscape. Badging—a reward system that provides learners with a micro-credential (virtual or physical) after reaching specific benchmarks—is an increasingly common motivational tool that is being used in academic libraries for such purposes as training student workers (see chapter 3) and information literacy instruction (see chapter 9). Similarly, escape rooms, immersive adventure games in which players solve a series of puzzles to escape the room, are now frequently used for educational purposes, including in academic libraries (chapters 1, 3, 11, 12, and 16 all contain examples of such experiences).

We chose this moment to create this book because we felt enough had changed in the world of gamification in academic libraries since 2008 that an update was called for. We also saw an opportunity to expand from gamification into the theme of games in libraries in general. With the recent board game renaissance, an increasing number of academic libraries are creating and supporting game collections in addition to using games in their instruction, and the game collections chapters included here provide several excellent guides to librarians interested in growing their own. The time also seemed right to address escape rooms, breakouts, and immersive experiences, which have been adopted by libraries as they have grown in popularity in the U.S. The role of gaming in academic libraries has never been simple, but as the options for incorporating them into instruction, outreach, and training multiply, we hope to provide readers with inspiration and guidance in their own projects.

Endnotes

  1. Jaakko Stenros, “The Game Definition Game: A Review,” Games and Culture 12, no. 6 (September 1, 2017): 499–520, https://doi.org/10.1177/1555412016655679.
  2. J. Dale Prince, “Gamification,” Journal of Electronic Resources in Medical Libraries 10, no. 3 (July 1, 2013): 162–69, https://doi.org/10.1080/15424065.2013.820539.
  3. Amy Harris and Scott E. Rice, Gaming in Academic Libraries: Collections, Marketing, and Information Literacy (Chicago: ACRL, 2008).
  4. The search was for (games OR gaming) AND “academic libraries.”
  5. For examples, see David Baker et al., “Lessons Learned from Starting a Videogame Collection at an Academic Library,” in Gaming in Academic Libraries: Collections, Marketing, and Information Literacy, eds. Amy Harris and Scott E. Rice (Chicago: ACRL, 2008), 26–38; Danielle Kane, Catherine Soehner, and Wei Wei, “Building a Collection of Video Games in Support of a Newly Created Degree Program at the University of California, Santa Cruz,” Science & Technology Libraries 27, no. 4 (2007): 77–87.
  6. For examples, see Annie Armstrong and Helen Georgas, “Using Interactive Technology to Teach Information Literacy Concepts to Undergraduate Students,” Reference Services Review 34, no. 4 (2006): 491–97; Guy J. Leach and Tammy S. Sugarman, “Play to Win! Using Games in Library Instruction to Enhance Student Learning,” Research Strategies 20 (2006): 191–203; Scott Rice, “Education on a Shoestring: Creating an Online Information Literacy Game,” in Gaming in Academic Libraries: Collections, Marketing, and Information Literacy, eds. Amy Harris and Scott E. Rice (Chicago: ACRL, 2008), 175–88; Paul Waelchli, “Leveling Up: Increasing Information Literacy through Videogame Strategies,” in Gaming in Academic Libraries: Collections, Marketing, and Information Literacy, eds. Amy Harris and Scott E. Rice (Chicago: ACRL, 2008), 212–28.
  7. For examples, see Jeremy Donald, “The ‘Blood on the Stacks’ ARG: Immersive Marketing Meets Library New Student Orientation,” in Gaming in Academic Libraries: Collections, Marketing, and Information Literacy, eds. Amy Harris and Scott E. Rice (Chicago: ACRL, 2008), 189–211; Sheree Fu, “Hosting Game Events in a Small, Liberal Arts Academic Library,” in Gaming in Academic Libraries: Collections, Marketing, and Information Literacy, eds. Amy Harris and Scott E. Rice (Chicago: ACRL, 2008), 88–107; Esther Grassian and Rhonda B. Trueman, “Stumbling, Bumbling, Teleporting and Flying . . . Librarian Avatars in Second Life,” Reference Services Review 35, no. 1 (2007): 84–89.
  8. See, for example, Emma Cross, David Mould, and Robert Smith, “The Protean Challenge of Game Collections at Academic Libraries,” New Review of Academic Librarianship 21, no. 2 (2015): 129–45; Teresa Slobuski, Diane Robson, and PJ Bentley, “Arranging the Pieces: A Survey of Library Practices Related to a Tabletop Game Collection,” Evidence Based Library and Information Science Practice 12, no. 1 (2017): 2–17.
  9. See, for example, Maura A. Smale, “Learning Through Quests and Contests: Games in Information Literacy Instruction,” Journal of Library Innovation 2, no. 2 (2011): 36–55; Nicole Tekulve, Chapel Cowden, and Jaime Myers, “The Game of Research: [Board] Gamification of Library Instruction,” The Journal of Creative Library Practice (2015), http://creativelibrarypractice.org/2015/09/23/the-game-of-research/.
  10. See, for example, Anna-Lise Smith and Lesli Baker, “Getting a Clue: Creating Student Detectives and Dragon Slayers in Your Library,” Reference Services Review 39, no. 4 (2011): 628–42; Andrew Walsh, “The Potential for Using Gamification in Academic Libraries in Order to Increase Student Engagement and Achievement,” Nordic Journal of Information Literacy in Higher Education 6, no. 1 (2014), 39–51.
  11. For example, Megan Margino, “Revitalizing Traditional Information Literacy Instruction: Exploring Games in Academic Libraries,” Public Services Quarterly 9 (2013): 333–41.

Bibliography

Armstrong, Annie, and Helen Georgas. “Using Interactive Technology to Teach Information Literacy Concepts to Undergraduate Students.” Reference Services Review 34, no. 4 (2006): 491–97.

Baker, David, et al. “Lessons Learned from Starting a Videogame Collection at an Academic Library.” In Gaming in Academic Libraries: Collections, Marketing, and Information Literacy, edited by Amy Harris and Scott E. Rice, 26–38. Chicago: ACRL, 2008.

Cross, Emma, David Mould, and Robert Smith. “The Protean Challenge of Game Collections at Academic Libraries.” New Review of Academic Librarianship 21, no. 2 (2015): 129–45.

Donald, Jeremy. “The ‘Blood on the Stacks’ ARG: Immersive Marketing Meets Library New Student Orientation.” In Gaming in Academic Libraries: Collections, Marketing, and Information Literacy, edited by Amy Harris and Scott E. Rice,189–211. Chicago: ACRL, 2008.

Fu, Sheree. “Hosting Game Events in a Small, Liberal Arts Academic Library.” In Gaming in Academic Libraries: Collections, Marketing, and Information Literacy, edited by Amy Harris and Scott E. Rice, 88–107. Chicago: ACRL, 2008.

Grassian, Esther, and Rhonda B. Trueman. “Stumbling, Bumbling, Teleporting and Flying . . . Librarian Avatars in Second Life.” Reference Services Review 35, no. 1 (2007): 84–89.

Harris, Amy, and Scott E. Rice. Gaming in Academic Libraries: Collections, Marketing, and Information Literacy (Chicago: ACRL, 2008).

Kane, Danielle, Catherine Soehner, and Wei Wei. “Building a Collection of Video Games in Support of a Newly Created Degree Program at the University of California, Santa Cruz.” Science & Technology Libraries 27, no. 4 (2007): 77–87.

Leach, Guy J., and Tammy S. Sugarman. “Play to Win! Using Games in Library Instruction to Enhance Student Learning.” Research Strategies 20 (2006): 191–203.

Margino, Megan. “Revitalizing Traditional Information Literacy Instruction: Exploring Games in Academic Libraries.” Public Services Quarterly 9 (2013): 333–41.

Prince, J. Dale. “Gamification.” Journal of Electronic Resources in Medical Libraries 10, no. 3 (July 1, 2013): 162–69. https://doi.org/10.1080/15424065.2013.820539.

Rice, Scott. “Education on a Shoestring: Creating an Online Information Literacy Game.” In Gaming in Academic Libraries: Collections, Marketing, and Information Literacy, edited by Amy Harris and Scott E. Rice, 175–88. Chicago: ACRL, 2008.

Slobuski, Teresa, Diane Robson, and PJ Bentley. “Arranging the Pieces: A Survey of Library Practices Related to a Tabletop Game Collection.” Evidence Based Library and Information Science Practice 12, no. 1 (2017): 2–17.

Smale, Maura A. “Learning Through Quests and Contests: Games in Information Literacy Instruction.” Journal of Library Innovation 2, no. 2 (2011): 36–55.

Smith, Anna-Lise, and Lesli Baker. “Getting a Clue: Creating Student Detectives and Dragon Slayers in Your Library.” Reference Services Review 39, no. 4 (2011): 628–42.

Stenros, Jaakko. “The Game Definition Game: A Review.” Games and Culture 12, no. 6 (September 1, 2017): 499–520. https://doi.org/10.1177/1555412016655679.

Tekulve, Nicole, Chapel Cowden, and Jaime Myers. “The Game of Research: [Board] Gamification of Library Instruction.” The Journal of Creative Library Practice (2015). http://creativelibrarypractice.org/2015/09/23/the-game-of-research/.

Waelchli, Paul. “Leveling Up: Increasing Information Literacy through Videogame Strategies.” In Gaming in Academic Libraries: Collections, Marketing, and Information Literacy, edited by Amy Harris and Scott E. Rice, 212–28. Chicago: ACRL, 2008.

Walsh, Andrew. “The Potential for Using Gamification in Academic Libraries in Order to Increase Student Engagement and Achievement.” Nordic Journal of Information Literacy in Higher Education 6, no. 1 (2014), 39–51.