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K-Staters share game experience

By The Mercury

The games, egg hunt and leaderboard from the world of Ernest Cline’s novel “Ready Player One” recently came to life for the Kansas State University community, thanks to campuswide collaboration and a group of computing and information sciences students.

To coincide with the university’s 2013 common book, collaborators created a campus game similar to the “Ready Player One” egg hunt. The university’s alternate reality game took place in both cyberspace and the real world and involved a student-created leaderboard Web application. For six weeks, more than 500 students, faculty and staff earned points by attending campus events, solving puzzles and making connections to try and earn the highest score on the game’s leaderboard.

Jamie Ladner, freshman in fisheries, wildlife and conservation biology, Topeka, was named the winner earlier this month. Her prize was a chance to meet Ernest Cline, author of “Ready Player One,” before his on-campus talk on Oct. 10.

“The goal of the ‘Ready Player One’ game was to create a shared experience for K-State students and staff based on the common book,” said Joelle Pitts, assistant professor at K-State Libraries.

“Through 197 different game challenges, 50 real-world events and activities, and more than 300 puzzles and riddles, we did just that. Players solved problems, collaborated with other staff and students, and learned about campus services and resources while making lasting friendships and contacts here on campus. We are incredibly pleased with the results.”

The creation of the game was a campuswide collaboration that involved K-State Libraries, the Information Technology Assistance Center, the K-State Book Network and the computing and information sciences department.

Game designers included Pitts; Daniel Ireton, assistant professor at K-State Libraries; and Ben Ward, instructional designer at the Information Technology Assistance Center. To create the supporting software, they teamed up with two computing and information sciences faculty members — Nathan Bean, program coordinator and instructor, and Dan Andresen, associate professor.

Bean and Andresen had students in their spring 2013 Web Interface Design course create the leaderboard Web application as a class project. The 49 undergraduate and graduate students in the course divided into groups to design a leaderboard similar to the one in “Ready Player One.” The students designed the tools and framework that the game designers needed to lead players through physical and digital campus spaces, services and resources.

“The project showed the students how what they do in class applies in the real world and gave them a little more concreteness,” said Bean, who is an expert in gaming and Web user interfaces. “This was more than just a homework assignment — it was something that was used in the campus community. The students can go back and see that they helped contribute to that.”

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