Discover History at NYPL and Find the Future

According to Jane McGonigal, gamers tend to read books more than they watch TV. Books give us big ideas and inform our imaginations, create new worlds and take us on amazing adventures. Oddly enough, the place where books are kept and made available, the library, does not usually fill us with the same sense of wonder. The New York Public Library wants to change that perception. The library’s goal is to “inspire people around the world to see libraries as a place where they can achieve their dreams and invent their own future” and “show off NYPL as a space for active creation and social collaboration.” To do this, the library has developed Find the Future, an interactive experience that guides visitors through the many artifacts housed at the New York Public Library. The game is directed by Jane McGonigal and her husband Kiyash Monsef, and designed and developed by Playmatics and Natron Baxter Applied Gaming.

Find the Future will initially be played by 500 participants who will be locked into the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building overnight on May 20, 2011. Once inside, players will go on real-world missions by following virtual clues on laptops and smartphones, collaborating online to discover 100 amazing and unique items from the collections of the New York Public Library, like Charles Dickens’ letter opener or a draft version of the Declaration of Independence. After finding each object, they will write a short piece based on the experience, inspiring the future with their personal contribution, which will later be bundled and published in a book. As McGonigal explained to, “it really becomes clear that for every moment in history there was a person who set that moment in action — and you could be that person.”

If you want to join the lucky few selected for Find the Future’s inaugural run, go to the website and enter to win. In order to be selected you have to complete a Quest by answering one simple question in 140 characters: Imagine what extraordinary thing you might achieve in the next ten years and complete this phrase: “By the year 2021, I will be the first person to…”

Entries must be received by April 21st at 11:59PM PST and the winners will be chosen based on creativity, originality and determination. Over 2,400 individuals have completed the Quest, so competition for selection is high. Need inspiration? Here are some of my favorite entries so far:

  • Trasande (New York, NY): build an everyone-friendly dynamic map of scientific innovation: how scientists build views of our universe, world, bodies and minds.
  • Sidknow (Grand Terrace, CA): find/create an alternative fuel that will power and is compatible with an infrastructure that is dependent on fossil fuels.
  • Crispy506 (Woodbury, NY): make a positive difference in someone’s life where everyone else has failed.

If you aren’t selected or can’t make it to New York on 20 May, 2011, don’t worry. Starting May 21st 2011, Find the Future will remain available to play for all visitors to the New York Public Library using smartphones or the library computers. Gamers worldwide will be able to access it through the internet as well.

If you can find the future, you can make history!


  1. Hi,

    your links in this article don’t work. Or are they just not working for me? (If I click on one of the links, they show the url of this article and in the end the url they should call is added in quotation marks.

    Best regards,

  2. Michael Andersen

    May 2, 2011 at 6:18 am

    Hi Patrick,

    Thanks for the heads up: I’ve fixed the issue for this article.

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