GenCon 2015 and Gamification in the Library

GenCon is the biggest gaming convention in the world. I love it and I’ve been going regularly for five years now – my husband and I go for a weekend of games, whether that’s tournaments, hours of RPG sessions, playing new games late into the night or demoing stuff that’s so new it hasn’t been released yet. This year was particularly interesting for me, since I was there not only as a gamer, but as a librarian – a librarian whose library has a growing interest in games and gamification.

We started introducing gamification elements into our summer reading program this year (the badging was part of that; the kids’ program also has a badge component, and achievements to earn), and there’s a lot more we can build on for our programming both next summer and in this upcoming school year. I spent Friday attending different panel events specifically on gamification in the classroom to see what elements of that we could purloin for the library, and was not disappointed.

Jon Cassie of Game Level Learn led the two workshops I took part in: The Magic Circle of the Gamified Classroom and Using Board Games in the Gamified Classroom. My big takeaway from both of these was how to look at the mechanics of games, break them down into their component parts, and figure out how to apply those to groups of kids and specific activities. We discussed the value of competition and merit-based play, and how setting up a gamified environment encourages kids to take control over their experience.

We’ve seen this with our summer reading program as well: for the kids’ program, they have a game board with spaces to be filled in for every day that they read. In theory, a kid can only do that over the summer and still hit the prize spots and still complete the program; however, we also have spaces for badges and achievements they can earn in addition to the basic board. We have seen way more kids get excited about hanging on to their board to finish all the badges, even when they’ve finished the reading spaces and could turn it in for their last prize – the prize becomes secondary to the experience, and to the feeling of really having completed their game.

(I also learned that boardgamegeek.com lets you search for games by mechanic, which means that they have a list of fifty-one different game mechanics you can examine. Super helpful!)

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