Tag: New York Public Library

Unlocking the Future at the New York Public Library

Growing up, my parents had me convinced that one of the local librarians lived the building’s basement. For years, Jim Caccamo was an archivist at the Hudson Library and Historical Society, and spent countless hours preserving the library’s collection of artifacts. He spent so much time there, it was a relatively simple matter for the librarians, with a little help from our parents, to convince many younger library patrons, myself included, that he never left the building. I suspect that one of the reasons we were so willing to believe this local urban legend was because the prospect of staying overnight at the library with all of its artifacts from history was such an exciting one. Sadly, Jim is no longer with us, but the legend he inspired stuck with me through the years. On May 20th, the New York Public Library invited five hundred people to stay overnight as part of the Centennial celebration. I was lucky enough to be one of the attendees at the launch of Find the Future, letting me live out the fantasy Jim planted in my head so many years ago.

Find the Future is a game developed by Jane McGonigal and her husband Kiyash Monsef along with Natron Baxter Applied Gaming and Playmatics, on behalf of the New York Public Library. The game itself involves a mobile scavenger hunt to discover one hundred artifacts including a fireproof copy of Ray Bradbury’s Farenheit 451, Malcolm X’s briefcase, the stuffed animals that inspired A.A. Milne’s stories of Winnie-the-Pooh, and Charles Dickins’ letter opener with a handle made from his cat’s paw. QR codes near each object can be scanned in using iPhone and Android apps to unlock writing prompts that ask players to think about their futures. The game provides individuals with a casual way of exploring many often overlooked details of the library along with prompts designed to make visitors think about how each artifact is relevant to their own lives. Interacting with the experience is a deeply personal, contemplative experience that plays out over time as players gradually return to the library and post their responses online. Players are rewarded with points for unlocking artifacts and submitting stories, allowing them to level up their writer level and receive achievement badges. Players can then assemble their favorite stories into an online Epic. Visitors to the public library can play the Find the Future game through the end of the year.

The Write All Night event invited 500 players to experience an intensely collaborative version of the Find the Future game. Players were selected from a pool of 5,000 entrants who explained what they would accomplish by the year 2021. The goal for the night was to create a 600-page book collecting player responses to each artifact prompt between 7PM on May 20th and 5AM on May 21st: in turn, the library promised to preserve and protect the book as long as New York City exists. Paper Dragon Books’ Gavin Dovey was on hand to bind the entries into a book before the night’s end, and editors made themselves available to help participants polish submissions. Before the event started, McGonigal assured players, “we have not rigged this game so you will win: it’s up to you.”

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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 CNN.com, “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.”

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