SIMS 2016

Alexandra Gillespie held a workshop featuring "Book of Fame" at the 9th Annual Lawrence J. Schoenberg Symposium on Manuscript Studies in the Digital Age on November 17-19, 2016. For full details on the conference, please consult the Schoenberg Institute of Manuscript Studies's official web site. A paper on the proceedings of this workshop will be published in 2018.

WORKSHOP III: Brainstorming a Game: Medieval Manuscripts

In video games, as in much medieval literature, an old book is often a portal to or within another world. Players of games such as The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim can spend hours puzzling over in-game manuscripts: fans can download add-ons that let them rebind the books they encounter in the game, and then build their own manuscript libraries. So what can video games and gaming bring to the study of medieval manuscripts? And how can medieval manuscript scholarship enrich the art and experience of interactive games?

The workshop will begin with some answers to those questions that have emerged from the Book of Fame, a game conceptualization and prototyping project from the Old Books New Science Lab at the University of Toronto. The Book of Fame team is using emerging specifications for image sharing to pull digital images of real medieval manuscripts into a game environment. The game then reimagines two-dimensional images as three-dimensional books, and sets them in artists’ dream-like refigurations of some famous libraries. Players are drawn into a narrative that involves both Margaret Atwood and Chaucer (the one who doth tweet), a lost Canterbury tale, some malicious hackers, and the often puzzling experience of textual criticism, codicological analysis,, and archive curation.

The workshop will proceed into an open discussion. What is the potential - and what are the pitfalls - of gamification for libraries, archives, and scholars seeking to open medieval books to wider public view? What do games and game players have to teach experts about manuscripts? Can new technologies, including Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality, change the way in which new readers, including undergraduate students, encounter the medieval past?

Alexandra Gillespie

University of Toronto