U of T news
  • Follow U of T News

Open Robarts: U of T Libraries’ alternate reality game

U of T hosts its first alternate reality game for Open Access Week 2015

It's hard to resist Robarts' iconic architecture, legendary stacks or cosy carrels but you don't have to enter to play the game – so far, U of T Libraries reports, Open Robarts has attracted views from 35 countries around the world

If you missed Open Robarts, the alternate reality game hosted by the University of Toronto Libraries last week, there’s still time to try it.

The game – a collaboration between the Libraries, local writer Mark Foo and artist David Oxley designed to celebrate Open Access Week – has been extended by popular demand. 

“The coolest feature of it is that we collaborated with artists in the city,” said Nelly Cancilla, copyright outreach librarian for the Scholarly Communications and Copyright Office at U of T.

“They’re both comic book artists and that was a large part in why it was so successful. They were able to create a believable world as well as some artifacts that we were able to use.”

Robarts hosted Open Robarts last week as part of Open Access Week 2015, Cancilla says. The global event is part of an effort to make information freely and immediately accessible, particularly in the contexts of research and scholarship. 

photo of Open Robarts poster“We wanted to get involvement from students for Open Access Week without having it be a traditional library event. We wanted to do something that was also very different from previous years.”

In the game, a group of concerned citizens must uncover a conspiracy that the Robarts librarians are hiding. However, the group has been banned from the library and takes on the role of an agent for the player.

“The theme of Open Access Week this year was ‘Open for Collaboration’ so we were hoping that players would collaborate together and we were happy to see that they did,” says Cancilla. “There were a number of different ways in which people could enter into the game as well as different ways that people could hear about it and communicate with each other.”

Librarians love seeing students in the stacks and reading rooms across the three campuses (U of T has the third-largest library system in North America) but Cancilla says they deliberately designed the game to ensure “people wouldn’t have to be coming into Robarts in order to play the game” in the spirit of Open Access.

Between Oct. 19-Oct. 23, the Open Robarts webpage received 10,552 page views from 2,677 visitors – many of whom worked together on Facebook, Twitter and even dedicated Reddit forums to win the game. It was exactly the type of collaboration for which they had hoped, she said.

Although the majority of online views came from within Canada, almost 2,000 came from the United States and the game attracted views from 34 other countries around the world. Winners of the game total just 47 so far, Cancilla says, with 12 people joining Vayika online and 17 in person while another 18 people have joined Kambre.

Cancilla attributes a large part of the game’s success to comic book creators Foo and Oxley, and their ability to incorporate the university’s real-life artifacts.

image of a symbol“In different locations in the library, such as the Media Commons, there are beautiful handmade pieces for the game like a DVD case which looks like Robarts when you stand it on its edge. There’s also a ledger that you can write your name in at the end of the game to join the secret society.”

You still have time to win the game and collect your prize, Cancilla says. Open Robarts continues until Oct. 30th. And the prize? A 3D printer file of the sigil of the faction that winning players choose to join, of course.

Below are some highlights of the game so far as shared on social media: