The British Library Simulator

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2020
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The British Library Simulator is a short browser-based game created by Giulia Carla Rossi during the 2020 lockdown using Bitsy, a free game engine developed by Adam Ledoux. It was published online in June 2020, while the Library buildings were closed. The British Library Simulator was created as a fun way to engage with our audience during the pandemic, giving them a chance to visit a different version of the Library, while learning interesting facts about the physical building and the Library as a whole. It was also a way to make the public aware of the services we continued to provide even during lockdown, by highlighting ongoing projects and the digital content that could be accessed from home (such as the Sound Archive and the UK Web Archive). Finally, it provided an example of the digital interactive narratives we are collecting as part of our work on emerging formats and new digital media.

In the game, players wander around the St Pancras building in London, encountering different characters (other visitors and members of staff) on their way to the Reading Room. The game takes less than 10 minutes to complete and the gameplay is deliberately limited (the only obstacle players need to overcome is leaving their belongings at the Cloakroom before entering the Reading Room). This choice was made in an effort to make the game appealing and accessible to a wider audience, including people that don’t necessarily identify as gamers, and to keep the main focus on the information relative to the British Library and its services. Links to the projects and resources mentioned in the game were provided on the game page - including the Emerging Formats Project (https://www.bl.uk/projects/emerging-formats), the UK Web Archive (https://www.webarchive.org.uk) and British Library Sounds (https://sounds.bl.uk). 

The British Library Simulator aimed to present libraries under a different light: not just as keepers of knowledge, but also as creators of content willing to engage with new technologies, even during a time of crisis. The British Library Simulator won joint first prize at the 2020 British Library Lab Staff Awards.

The British Library Simulator was created by Giulia Carla Rossi, the British Library’s Curator for Digital Publications. She is responsible for supporting the Library in developing capacity to manage collections of complex digital objects as part of the Emerging Formats Project. Currently, the project is focusing on publications produced for mobile devices (apps) and interactive narratives, covering requirements across the collection management lifecycle. She’s in the process of curating an online collection of all shortlisted and winning entries to the New Media Writing Prize, to be hosted on the UK Web Archive. She is interested in interactive storytelling, net art and how new technologies and forms of creating and consuming content are challenging existing practices in collecting institutions.

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British Library Simulator (BL Labs Staff Award Joint Winner 2020)

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Irene Fabbri