Teenage Spaces and Gamification – The Real Modern Tetris!

The development of a space for adolescents is a growing concern for new libraries. To create a ‘ Wow Factor ! Many of these new constructions will include a section dedicated to library games. The latter are outstanding motivators that are available on different platforms: video games, board games, online games, fun activities, etc. This is why it is essential to integrate them into an offer of adolescent services in the library.

The “Wow!” Factor!

Library Play
In “Designing Space for Children and Teens in Libraries and Public Places,” authors Sandra Feinberg and James R. Keller emphasize the importance of impressing the user as soon as they enter the library. This is what they call the “Wow Factor! “. This is true, if not more, for the teen section. We must surpass the expectations of young visitors and find the furniture, decor and documents that will leave a good impression and make you want to come back. It is also a way to strike the imagination and to integrate video games.

And as Scott Nicholson puts it, ”  do not do it because it’s hip ! », But do it by proposing a structuring and harmonized vision of this library game offer . The “social gamification” [1] of the adolescent space must be done by adding a playful dimension to the library’s offer to achieve the social, educational and entertaining goals of the game.

To establish a playful structuring offer, it is necessary, at first sight, to have clear objectives including 1) the target audience and 2) the type of experience desired. Depending on the choices we have made, we need to think about the integration of 3) a type of offer and 4) gamification processes. To harmonize these 4 aspects of the development, it is to succeed the TETRIS of the play space for teenagers.

An example of successful TETRIS: a public space (2) for socialization (1) of young adolescents would require (3) multiplayer video games in an open space. Young people will gain extra play time if they bring in new players (4).

The type of experience desired

In his book “Everyone Plays at the Library”, Scott Nicholson lists five types of experiences that library play activities can bring to life. We have drawn upon the types of experiences he offers to present a non-exhaustive picture of library play activities by their social, educational, active, strategic and narrative aspects.

Social Intergenerational activity Animation where young people and adults participate together in a play session.
Free animation in library Animation where users have free access to play stations.
Multiplayer Games Type of game advocated in the development of social games.
Casual Games / casual gaming Type of game with simple rules and easy access. Recommended for new players.
Educative Games Conferences Animation to contextualize the place of the game in the library.
Documentary complementarity Presentation of video games as a complement to other documents: books, mangas, DVDs, etc.
Serious games / educational games Type of game advocating learning when playing the game.
Game design Animation. See box below: The new fashion of fun animations
Active Movement games Type of game where the user must move the joystick to do an action (Kinect, Wii, etc.).
Dance Games Type of game where the user must simulate dancing on a carpet or via a joystick.
Rhythm Games Type of game where the user must simulate the practice of a musical instrument (Guitar Hero, Rock Band)
Strategic Inter-library tournaments Animation where users confront each other locally.
Inter Library Tournaments Animation where the users confront themselves via Internet.
Board Games Type of game advocated in the strategic game establishment.
LAN Party Animation where users’ computers are connected together to play against each other.
Narrative Role play game Type of game where young people must play a character (Dungeon and Dragons)
Individual consultation on site Animation where young people can have free access to the games in a solitary way.
Book of which you are the hero A type of book where young people make decisions to pursue history.
Documents inspired by games Type of documents (novels, manga, DVD, etc.) inspired by the world of games.

The type of offer

” In an adolescent space, the key words are freedom, mobility, sociability and playfulness. ”

In an adolescent space, the key words are freedom, mobility, sociability and playfulness . In order to integrate all these elements, the two main objectives should be to offer a wide range of activities and, of course, to create a friendly, welcoming and fun space. As far as activities are concerned, a play area should be animated by all-encompassing activities, structuring activities and ongoing activities . These three types of activities provide a complete offer to ensure the success of a play area and form an interactive environment conducive to the establishment of a community of adolescents.

Here are our proposals:

1) The activities encompassing

In the first place, we must think about all-encompassing activities, those that will take place throughout the library and that will affect the imagination of users. If possible, these punctual activities will take place outside of the library’s opening hours and even, to attract a young audience, will preferably take place in the evening or during the night.

Other activities include LAN Party where dozens or even hundreds of young people bring their computer to play network. These activities, very popular in post-secondary school settings (such as the HTA LAN), should be coordinated with the help of an external organization. The complexity of the activity is not to be neglected.

The Université de Sherbrooke has already done a competition to create video games. Teams were competing to develop the best game in 24 hours on a given theme. After the experience, the winners receive a recognition award and the library gets back dozens of games on the theme it has chosen. Result? Happy users and quality mediation tools at low cost!

In activities that are simpler to organize, we also find the night of gaming that gives free access to several video game stations during the night.

2) The structuring activities

Secondly, we need to think about the structuring and regular activities that will ensure consistent attendance in the teen section. They will serve to build a faithful community in this space. These activities usually take place at fixed times and are in an isolated environment such as a conference room. Depending on the number of young people desired, such an activity usually requires:

  • A play station for every 4 participants (1 board game or 1 video game console);
  • One facilitator for every 12 participants
  • 16 square meters of space for each 4 participants;
  • Comfortable seats for waiting players;
  • Snacks and drinks if budget and location allow.

Structuring activities may include other types of activities: guest speakers, game design workshops, board games clubs, role play clubs, etc.

3) Permanent activities

Thirdly, adolescent spaces must be open and free, allowing young people to appropriate places and equipment. He must therefore have access to games in individual consultation on the spot. A video game station for on-site consultation is composed of:

  • A game station (console and games available);
  • A comfortable seat;
  • 9 meters of space per station;
  • Headphones to prevent noise;
  • Internet access for the console;
  • An employee who is knowledgeable about games and who can answer questions from young people.

These stations available at all times can be semi-open. Users can see the youngster play, but not disturbed.

Another permanent activity essential to a play area is the collection of video games for the loan. The games must be positioned at the sight of the teen section and should be surrounded by documents that might interest them: Comics and novels inspired by video games, manga, DVD, etc.

Social gamification – a source of motivation

” All transactions made are a reason to add gamification to the library ”

To integrate social gamification, it is necessary to give an added value to the visit in library with incentives. All transactions are a reason to add gamification: loan of documents, entry into the library, on-site consultation, participation in activities, etc.

If we had to choose only a principle of social gamification, we would choose to integrate the players in the development of collection or in the choice of animations. To do this, there would be a grid of points that would measure participation and involvement and reward the most active players by allowing them to assist the librarian in acquiring resources. Another possibility is to develop a “wish list” where young people can write animations that they would like to see. At each interval of a few months, the librarian chooses from the list of wishes an activity for the adolescent space.

Several other incentives are possible: unlock games on computers, possibility to participate in a special tournament, book a console at a given time, etc.

Advice on space

An offer of games in a physical space that leaves something to be desired will not be ignored, but certainly less popular than it should. For this reason, it is essential to offer a space that is both fun and welcoming to its teen audience. Some important elements must be integrated:

  • Get mobile furniture to modify the place (the only way to succeed your TETRIS!);
  • Open spaces allowing noise AND closed spaces for study and team work;
  • Permission to eat and drink;
  • Involvement of young people in decoration (and the choice of activities and documents);
  • If you choose a theme, make sure it is unisex and not part of a fad;
  • Do not forget the terms named above: freedom, mobility, sociability and playfulness .

To make a TETRIS, make sure all your blocks are well positioned!

Succeeding a TETRIS is not a simple task. The planning of a play area for teenagers requires significant time, space and costs that are only possible for certain libraries. For them, it is especially important to be structured and harmonized to offer the best possible offer for users.

If the library does not have enough space to offer a set of video game activities, it’s best to start with a small offer. A contribution of gamification, a collection of loans or all-encompassing activities can still help start an adolescent space.

Thierry Robert & Claude Ayerdi

The “social gamification” is to give added value to an activity or a space of the library by adding a fun layer . This is the same strategy used by summer reading clubs by offering a multitude of playful processes (rewards, goals, levels, progression, etc.) to engage young people in reading.

* Note also that we have returned to the English term “gamification” since our last article Argus. The term “ludification” is still struggling to impose itself and creates unnecessary confusion.