A villainous alligator is digitizing landmarks in order to take over the world. Only you — playing as Smokey and correctly answering questions about library jargon — can save it.
This is the storyline that "Jargon Blaster," a tutorial and game that was released on the University of Tennessee libraries’ website early this year, follows. This game was created specifically for UT libraries by Elijah Dies, an instructional developer and designer with the Teaching and Learning programs.
The game's allure is its story, in which a pixelated version of Smokey in an eight-bit video game is tasked to save Knoxville from being digitized. Users save landmarks around the city like the Sunsphere, Tennessee Theatre and Hodges Library.
In order to earn the story, which is shown through cut scenes and dialogue, users must correctly answer questions, largely about library terms such as citations, limiters and abstracts. When users get a certain amount of questions correct, the story continues. The ending can differ based on how well users play.
Dies has a background in playing video games and designed this tutorial with inspiration from old video games. In storyboarding the scenes, Dies created Enpeesee, a side character wizard who helps Smokey through his journey. There are direct allusions to Mario Bros. and Pac-Man, with Atari and Zelda being other inspirations for the design and story.
The game has a bit of everything: a castle, an underwater scene and a twist ending.
"It's definitely a game, but at its heart, it's a tutorial,” Dies said.
UT libraries have vast collections of resources and services available, but they can be difficult to navigate and hard to understand. Library terms can be confusing. Playing the game will help users clarify their knowledge. Users can click through definitions each round to refresh their memory before diving into the questions.
“Most of the people that you are going to be talking to in a library are going to, even if they're not intending to, they're going to start using some of this jargon so it's important to know some of these basic elements,” Dies said.
Sara Caoile, a sophomore art major, works at the library as a student library assistant. Outside of her work, she spends about two hours a week at Hodges. Caoile was not aware of "Jargon Blaster" and played through it for the first time while at work.
“It is really cute. It is also very informational … I think this is a good way for people to know where stuff is but still have a good time,” Caoile said.
There is a space for feedback, and users can suggest other library terms that should be added to the game. Dies stressed that he did his best to make it user friendly. The music can be muted and the pixelated text can be turned to a standard font. He wanted to make sure that as many people as possible could find it accessible.
"It's educational, but it's supposed to be fun. It is created with love," Dies said.
Dies explained that learning goes both ways — library workers and students can meet in the middle to best work through learning. "Jargon Blaster" can be played on UT's libraries website.
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