Head Hunt: Ohio State Freshmen Orientation Game

During the fall of 2007, Ohio State University implemented a new library orientation game for incoming students. The game was developed as a new way to introduce new students to the variety of services and materials offered by the many libraries at OSU. The design team consisted of Fred Roecker, Nancy O'Halon, Karen Diaz, Tingting Lu, and Jim Muir. The game is an interesting way to reach out to a large number students and provide students with a reason / goal to keep exploring the different library sites. Fred Roecker described the game as:

The goal of the game is to discover the location of the head of Brutus Buckeye (the OSU mascot). There are five short films and eight casual games to give players an overview of our library facilities, resources, procedures, and people. Successful completion of a game awards the player with one clue letter. Collect them all and unscramble these letters to reveal the library location of Brutus' head. There is a comment form for players to give their impressions of the game as well.

The game uses a map of the OSU campus along with Google Maps to provide the game board for players to navigate around the campus. Clicking on each library location will either bring up a short video or a simple minigame both of which provide more detail on the library shown on the map. The games include call number matching, multiple choice questions about library services, matching databases to their content, crossword puzzles, and others. One game requires students to click on a screenshot of the OSU libraries webpage to answer different questions. The game provides an interactive tour of the Library's webpage and services available through it. Upon completion of each minigame the student is given a letter that helps unlock where the mascot's head is hidden.

During an mail conversation from October 2007, Fred Roecker discussed the progress of the game and student use:
The Head Hunt library orientation game has gone very well. We placed teaser flyers in all freshmen packets which were distributed during their on-campus orientations during the summer. In September, each student received an email notification about the game, a listing of the prizes in the drawing for those who successfully complete the game, and the URL to begin playing.

There was a follow up reminder email as well as a note sent to the families of the new students inviting them to play along with their students to learn about the
libraries. We also contacted all the dorm Resident Advisors to let
them publicize the game in their dorms since we have a new graph that
displays numbers of students playing the game by dorm and also by
college.
As of mid-October, they had around 800 students play the game and about 100 guests. After mid-October and the window of new student orientation passed, the librarians administered a "Student Perceptions" survey to about 1,000 students. This survey focused on how and if students are using the libraries and their resources. Since the library had data on which students played the game, they are planning to analyze the surveys to see difference in those who had and had not played. Also since the same survey was given in 2006, the librarians planned to compare the results this year to the previous one.

Before the classes ended in December, I had a follow-up conversation with Fred where he had this to say on the student feedback:
The first quarter freshmen student players gave us very positive feedback on the experience and the information they found in the game. A drawing for prizes was used as an incentive. Information about the development of the game can be found in the "About Head Hunt" link on the opening screen.
I encourage everyone to go and try out OSU's Head Hunt. The game may not actively engage them like "I'll Get It," but it does introduce a lot of library content in a more active way than OSU had traditionally done. The games are not a deep, meaningful experience, but they were not designed to be. The larger narrative of finding the "head" gives students a reason to continue playing and the games offer enough variety to keep students wanting to see what game comes next.

Head Hunt
works for what it is - a creative and engaging interactive tour of the OSU libraries and services.