Gaming guru and Reality is Broken author Jane McGonigal is organizing a game to commemorate the New York Public Library’s centennial celebration. On May 20th, 500 gamers will spend the night in the main branch of the library on 42nd Street to complete 100 “quests” designed by a McGonigal-directed team.
It’s an innovative use of gaming, and it’s also a novel way for a library–that most staid of places, in the public eye–to reinvent itself. The library lists as one of its motivations to “show off NYPL as a space for active creation and social collaboration.”
The 500 participants (who will apply to be chosen) will break into smaller teams and be sent to retrieve artifacts from the library’s collections. They’ll prove they’ve found them by scanning a QR code with their phones, and then they’ll be asked to draft a document of their own inspired by the artifact they found. For example, gamers might be asked to imagine what a Declaration of Independence would read like if drafted today.
“The NYPL approached me last summer to tell me about their plans for the Centennial Celebration this spring,” McGonigal tells Fast Company. “Their theme is ‘Find the Future’ and this really resonated with me–the idea that libraries aren’t just about collecting knowledge from the past, they’re also a place to inspire big ideas and worldchanging dreams for the future.”
McGonigal says she and her collaborators (according to the site’s FAQ, the game is “directed by Jane McGonigal, created with Kiyash Monsef, and designed and
developed by Playmatics and Natron Baxter Applied Gaming”) spent a week with curators of the special collections and the Centennial Celebration, then spent months poring over the contents of the catalog to get ideas for the quests.
At the end of the night locked in at the library, the teams will have created 100 documents inspired by artifacts from the NYPL collections. These documents will in turn be bound into a book, which will join the library’s holdings. Though the main event is on May 20th, anyone can play the game online after that.
“The NYPL is a dream environment for a live-action game,” says McGonigal. “The physical space is just epic at the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building. You walk inside and suddenly you feel anything is possible. And there are so many real treasures inside. I couldn’t imagine a better place to spend a day–or night!– adventuring.”