There's no escape: Using Escape Room game design principles to engage library users [slides]

ALIA Library

Salisbury, Fiona; Ung, Eng

ALIA Information Online 2017 Conference, 13-17 February 2017 Sydney: Data Information Knowledge
This conference presentation (PowerPoint slides) supports the paper which presents a case study of the process used by La Trobe University Library to develop and implement an interactive orientation activity to encourage student engagement with library services and programs.
Abstract: Capturing the imagination of students and engaging them in everything the library has to offer is particularly important for university libraries at the start of each new academic year and during orientation week. The challenge for library staff is working out how to renew orientation activities so that they stay fresh and relevant to new students. In 2016, the La Trobe University Library piloted an engaging and interactive new orientation activity to help students to get to know the library. Our new approach brings together the digital and physical environments by capitalising on the internationally popular game, Escape Rooms. Escape Rooms are a live puzzle game where players are locked in a room, and need to find clues and solve puzzles to ‘escape the room’. Escape rooms’ popularity around the world is reflected in their consistent #1 ranking in the TripAdvisor ‘Fun Activities’ category. La Trobe University Library took the Escape Room concept and transformed it into a blended online and physical orientation game for teams of students to learn about key library services. Escape Room at the Library is an example of how game design has potential for increasing student engagement with the library in online (Walsh, 2014) and physical spaces (Angell & Boss, 2016). To implement Escape Room at the Library, the Library team:

  • Used examples of current Escape Rooms in Melbourne
  • Investigated existing online and physical puzzles
  • Developed design brief with the following consideration:
  • risks associated with live action/online gaming
  • success measures/criteria
  • ways to capture data
  • Developed learning outcomes to integrate into game design
  • Executed creative game design and data gathering metrics – graphic design/online development/ analytics/ physical game pieces
  • Tested and amended draft game design
  • Implemented communications and final game design
  • Gathered raw data and measured against success criteria

The popularity of Escape Room at the Library completely exceeded the Library’s expectations. The game continued after O-week and ran for a total of four weeks with 714 registered participants. The popularity of this orientation activity was an unintentional by-product of making learning fun and interactive. The success of Escape Room at the Library was also demonstrated in the post-game survey:
96% of respondents stated they learnt a lot or learnt something
99% of respondents stated they found the game enjoyable or very enjoyable
99% of respondents stated they would recommend the game to a friend
In addition, of the 20 learning outcomes addressed, 16 were met by over 80% of respondents.
The goal of Escape Room at the Library was to design an intrinsically-motivated activity similar to a library tour, that required minimal staff facilitation, that immersed students in the digital and physical worlds, that could be done at any time and which would maximise student engagement. This case study demonstrates how the principles of game and puzzle design can be used to enhance discovery of library services and programs in a blended environment. It is an approach that could be applied to a range of library settings.



Deakin, ACT: Australian Library and Information Association
La Trobe University