Shelving Your Concept of ‘Library’

Temple’s Paley Library will be transformed into an interactive game environment this weekend. As with many of Philadelphia’s interactive public art displays in recent years, Drexel’s Entrepreneurial Game Studio has had a hand in shifting the way people view an everyday place — even one that’s as entrenched in our collective understanding as a library.

The interactive theater game, called Diamond Eye Conspiracy, is the latest project in the studio’s mission to get people to look at the world in a different way. Participatory public art, such as playing video games on the side of a skyscraper, or imagining how the city would deal with an alien invasion have many interesting technical aspects but they are essentially vehicles to get people to shift their perspective.

maxresdefault-1Building an interactive, theatrical game in a library is, in many ways, as ambitious an undertaking as forays into edificial gaming. For one, walking mobile gamers through a theater/dance performance in a library is even more difficult than it sounds.

“It’s an uncontrollable space,” said Arianna Gass, program manager at EGS and one of the three designers of the game. “It has to stay open and be used as a library, so it’s hard to build a theatrical experience in a space that is both entertaining and quiet; something respectful of the library patrons who are already working in that space.”

But the nuanced rules of library behavior also play an important role in the game.

“The fear of disrupting other people’s studies is fun to play against in our game, and we wouldn’t have been able to impose that kind of behavior in a more controlled, non-library space,” Gass said.

Drawing on her experience with augmented reality gaming and interactive theater, Gass developed the mobile game that will drive participants through the experience. Since last fall, she has been working with local artists Joe Ahmed and Daniel Park to create the physical aspects of this unique program.

“I don’t think there are many examples of this thing that we’ve made,” Gass said. “It’s ‘site specific’ theater, but the theater is only one aspect of the experience and, at times, it’s secondary to the games we have people playing. In the end, Diamond Eye Conspiracy is a huge experiment!”

The interactive experience is part of the Samuel S. Paley Library’s “Beyond the Page” public programming series, in which EGS Director Frank Lee, PhD, participated as a speaker last year. It is free and open to the public from April 21-24 with performances from 7-9 p.m. each night. To register to participate, click here.

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