Ben Ward - Sustained Engagement: From Common Read to Community Through a Campus-Wide Transmedia Game


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Follow designers working with the Kansas State Book Network Common Read, Ernest Cline's Ready Player One. Our team created a nine-week long transmedia experience featuring a massive labyrinth of puzzles, codes, and games to foster friendship and community, and help players discover the richness of campus life.

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  • Now we didn’t just take a wild leap into building a large-scale game just to say we did. Games in education have been growing in both support and acceptance since the 2011 Horizon Report predicted that institutions of higher education would need to seriously look into using games in teaching and learning, or risk falling behind. And what can I say, games offer up great opportunities because they are engaging, motivating. They can help us to create community. They are great for teaching problem solving and critical thinking, not to mention, they can help us rediscover that learning can be fun again.
  • The type game we created is known as an alternate reality game. Now as Jane McGonigal describes in her book, “Reality is Broken.” These type of games span over time, using both online and real-world events to get players to “come together” and collaboratively solve a problem or mystery.
  • We start with this year’s K-State Book Network common read, Ready Player One, by Ernst Cline, which KSBN graciously allowed us to build a game around. Now Ready Player One is a wonderfully dystopian book, following the adventures of Wade, also know as Parzival, as he escapes into a virtual world looking for a hidden Easter egg that will grant the finder a truly epic inheritance, and with it an opportunity to change the world.
  • Which leads us to what our players affectionately, and simply, called The Game. An amazing series of experiences, available for students, faculty, and staff, that ran for eight weeks starting at the beginning of last semester. And from the onset, it was built so you didn’t just read the book, you got to play along with book…
  • Truthfully, this endeavor was a group labor of love from its onset, and it could not have even been started without the creativity and effort of Joelle Pitts and Dan Ireton for Kansas State Libraries. We’ve even added another member to our design team recently, with Ellen Urton. But more about that later.
  • And these games can get quite complicated, as they interweave games, puzzles, riddles, and codes to get players to follow an underlying narrative revealed in digital spaces and real-world events.
  • So, just to give you a sense of the scope of our game…
  • So, let’s take a closer look at the game itself. Here is our Easter Egg, which was the marker we used to that let players know they could find parts of the game. This one hung from the side of Beach Museum, Who I have to thank everyone at the Beach, for they were one of greatest supporters through all this. And if you found these markers, and were brave enough to ask a question, or dig around a little, you fell into the rabbit hole, per se. And as with most alternate reality games, players discovered it almost entirely by word-of-mouth.
  • Here is our scoreboard, which was central not only to our game, but in the book Ready Player One. It was designed and built by students (49) from Nathan Ban and Dan Andersen’s Web interface Design course, and later implemented by Nathan. It allowed players to track their scores and to compete with their peers.
  • Here is our K-State Libraries LibGuide, “Anorak’s Almanac,” the central, online, hub of our game. Here players accessed clues, puzzles, and countless books, movies, games, and other pieces of pop culture reference in the book.
  • This is an example of one of simpler trivia challenges, taken straight from the book,… Which movie does this quote come from, anyone? Anyone?
  • Some of our puzzles, of course, seriously required you to get your geek on. This little one requires at least a passing knowledge of Klingon,…and which cleverly follows along with the book. I won’t go any further into it. If you are curious, catch me afterwards.
  • We also had treasure hunts. This one titled “Hey You Guys,” and was a homage to the movie Goonies
  • We even had a computer simulator, so players could play through part of the movie War Games with Matthew Broderick, just as Parzival did in Ready Player One.
  • There was also a multi-user dungeon, or as it is often referred to as a MUD, built in the stacks of Hale library as a parody of the vintage video game Zork.
  • We even built a card game to let players vicariously join in on the robot battle toward the end of the story. But enough said of the myriad of game elements, let’s look at what was most import, the players…
  • Here we are in the midst of one of the robot battles, playing along with the book…
  • We had a very diverse mix of players from all across campus…
  • One the most significant parts of the game was that it required you to meet people and explore the campus to be successful. Here is one of the cooperative building challenges students face. (Based on the TEDtalk Marshmallow Challenge)
  • In fact, this young woman, and architectural engineering student, wasn’t even initially one of our players, but her roommates drug her along so they could win in the building challenge…
  • And they did, in fact, win that particular challenge. We also have gathered a large amount of information from surveys, exit interviews, and even the scoreboard, itself. And I would like to share with you a few quotes from one of the surveys…
  • Just to show a little more of some of the events that happened in the game. This is part of K-State Challenge Course, that Travis Redeker generously gave us access to, and became part of the Hero’s Journey quest chain in the game, that was directly inspired by input from Greg Eiselein.
  • And here we shift over to some final cooperative challenges the players face at our endgame event up in the Hemisphere room in Hale Library.
  • And as I said earlier, you really couldn’t really get through the game without meeting people, making friends, and even having a bit of fun
  • And here we are with a final Huzzah! As our players have just finished re-enacting parts of Monty Python’s the Holy Grail, just as Parzival did in the story…
  • And finally here is Jamie Ladner, our first place winner, going for a ride in Ernest Cline’s DeLorean.
  • I honestly have to thank an enormous number of people who made this possible (please forgive me if I forget someone, because I am sure I will.
    We need to thank the Kansas State Book Network and K-State First for letting us join in, We especially need to thank K-State Libraries and iTAC for being brave enough to sponsor us and let us build the game. We also need to thank the Union Programming Council, the Office of Student Life, the Marianna Kistler Beach Museum, the K-State Challenge Course, the Collegian Media group, the Office of Mediated Education, University First, the Academic Assistance Center, the Writing Center, the College of Agriculture, the College of Arts and Sciences, the English Language Program, and many more… as I said I am probably forgetting a few. Specifically, I would like to thank Tara Colman, Greg Eiselein, Karin Westman, Judy Lynch, Nathan Bean, Ben Hopper, Travis Redeker, and Brent Anders…But most of all I want to thank our players …and thank you all for me share the story of our game
  • Now, for those of you who felt you missed out on the opportunity to play, or even possibly a chance to contribute to the Ready Player One game, we are right now in midst of building the next generation of our game Mapping the Ghost Map based on Steve Johnson’s The Ghost Map. So, if you are curious about how you can take part, drop ma an email, or if you are just looking to play, be on the lookout for our next marker…
  • Ben Ward - Sustained Engagement: From Common Read to Community Through a Campus-Wide Transmedia Game

    1. 1. Sustained Engagement: From Common Read to Community Through a Campus-Wide Transmedia Game Ben Ward Instructional Designer Information Technology Center
    2. 2. The Horizon Report 2014 “The gamification of education is gaining support among educators who recognize that effectively designed games can stimulate large gains in productivity and creativity among learners.”
    3. 3. What is an ARG exactly? An ARG is “An interactive drama played out online and in real-world spaces, taking place over several weeks or months, in which dozens, hundreds, or thousands of players come together online, form collaborative social networks, and work together to solve a mystery or problem” -Jane McGonigal
    4. 4. The Lost Book The Library Alternate Reality Game
    5. 5. The Lost Book Narrative “I tell her about a book I lost. Well, not really lost, more like forgot. In fact I am not really sure it was a book at all, but rather the memory of a story…”
    6. 6. The Path Trekking through the stacks Sidewalk chalk Pull tabs Cards
    7. 7. The Path
    8. 8. The Path
    9. 9. The Path
    10. 10. The Book
    11. 11. The Book
    12. 12. The Endgame
    13. 13. The Endgame Now I’ve shared my secret with you Now that I’ve shared it, it’s your secret too Grab a book and join us as we read the greats In a Great Room where the seeds of more stories await
    14. 14. So, who played? • Lost Book Site Stats • Visits: 197 • Unique Visitors: 156 • Pageviews: 596 • Pages / Visit: 3.03 • Avg. Visit Duration: 00:03:04 • New Visits: 79.19% • Return Visitor Rate: 22% • After game ended on 11/2: 18 unique, 21 visits total, 35 seconds • LibGuide stats: • Day 1: 39 views • Day 2: 26 views • Day 3: 12 views • Day 4: 55 views Of the players who reached the endgame, 80% were female.
    15. 15. Ready Player One
    16. 16. Transmedia Storytelling Ready Player One – The Book Ready Player One – The Game Scoreboard
    17. 17. Design Goals • Safe for everyone • Fun, fun, fun! • Increased student involvement • Shared educational opportunities • Student contributions to the game
    18. 18. Game Mechanics • Achievements and Experience points • Communal Discovery • PsychoSocial Moratorium Principle • Ownership • Cross-Disciple Problem Solving • Countdown • Appointment Dynamic • Chain Schedules • Story Archeology
    19. 19. The Game
    20. 20. The Designers Joelle Dan Ben Nathan
    21. 21. Transmedia Storytelling
    22. 22. The Numbers 50+ Real-world events 10,000+ Views of K-State Libraries’ “Anorak’s Almanac” 5 Sponsored surveys 320+ Puzzles, riddles, codes, and trivia challenges 500+ Posts to Twitter, Tumblr, and K-State email 20 Challenges linked to Student Services 1 Player-generated Reddit page 197 Game challenges 509 Active participants 50+ Geocache sites 1 Player-generated Facebook account
    23. 23. The Numbers Countless Opportunities For a diverse group of players to meet and get to know each other
    24. 24. Our Top Players • Majors ranging from Architectural Engineering to Fish, Wildlife, and Conservation • Included undergraduate students, graduate students, and K-State faculty/staff • 50% of the players were women • 45% of the players were first-year students
    25. 25. “As a freshman, it gave me a group of friends right off the bat. Being more connected to other students made me feel more connected to the school itself.”
    26. 26. “I think that I was mainly surprised more by the attitudes of the players. Everyone was competitive, but at the same time a real sense of camaraderie developed and we all helped each other out whenever possible instead of everyone being out for only their own gain.”
    27. 27. “I really enjoyed the puzzles, and especially seeing the ‘mystery eggs’ scattered around campus. It felt like being party to a ‘big secret,’ and makes you feel special (in a positive way) for understanding it's purpose. I also felt like I was part of the community by participating.”
    28. 28. Countless Thanks to • Our sponsors • Our contributors • Our supporters • And most importantly… Our Players!
    29. 29. Mapping the Ghost Map