I have fond memories of visiting my local library as a kid, checking out a ballooning list of books and borrowing CD-ROMs of some favorite PC games that my family otherwise couldn’t afford. The library was (and still is in my adult life) an essential resource for discovering new worlds and the people who create them—but across the board, they tend to lack detailed archives of interactive fiction in their catalogs, despite extensive representation of other media.
Enter Colin Post, assistant professor of library and information science at the University of North Carolina – Greensboro, who is “part of a team conducting research to develop a licensing framework designed specifically to facilitate the collection of independent-made digital games in libraries.” Colin has announced a series of focus group sessions, in association with NarraScope, that asks independent game creators at any experience level to share their thoughts on collecting narrative games in libraries.
There will be two virtual sessions: Wednesday July 12 from 7-9pm ET and Tuesday July 18 from 12-2pm ET. Both sessions will involve “a listening and discussion session with other independent game creators on a number of issues critical to licensing games for library collections.” Notes from these discussions will be shared on the IntFiction forum for those who are interested in the topic but unable to attend.
Why Collecting Narrative Games Matters
“While libraries have long collected games released on physical media, libraries are currently very limited in their ability to collect and provide access to digital-only games distributed through online storefronts or via creator or community websites,” Colin shared at NarraScope 2022. This practice becomes all the more difficult as digital becomes the primary means of distribution for media like games.
Colin continued to build on these concerns at NarraScope this year, focusing on promoting discovery and access through cataloging methods. And this is key, because while IFTF has built robust archives like the Interaction Fiction Archive and the Interactive Fiction Database, they’re more likely to be used by those who are already devotees to the artform. Library collections, meanwhile, can circulate to different and broader communities.
“By cataloging narrative games, we’re upholding these works—and their creators—as part of the bibliographic universe,” Colin noted in his recent talk. For example, catalog information could link a reader interested in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein with Shelley Jackson’s hypertext work Patchwork Girl, aiding in interactive fiction’s discovery.
How to Participate
You can find all the details for Colin’s focus group sessions here. Both sessions are free and open to anyone interested in attending, but advance signup is required.