What would you put in the Declaration of Independence if it was being written today?
That's an exercise that you and 499 other people could try out if you're one of the lucky few that will be chosen to take part in game designer Jane McGonigal's 100th anniversary ode to the New York Public Library, "Find the Future."
On May 20, 500 hand-selected gamers will get to spend the night in the world-famous Stephen A. Schwarzman Building--otherwise known as the main branch of the city's library system--immersing themselves in some of the most special artifact's in the institution's archives, including Charles Dickens' letter opener--made from the paw of his beloved cat; Jack Kerouac's glasses; and an original copy of the Declaration of Independence.
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In "Find the Future," the players--initially the 500 chosen to be on hand on May 20, and later anyone on the Web, will have to complete a series of quests designed by McGonigal, the author of the best-selling "Reality is Broken" and the creator of games like "A World without Oil," "The Lost Ring," and a regular keynote speaker at events like the Game Developers Conference, South by Southwest Interactive, and TED.
"For the first time in its history, the library will open the doors of its 42nd Street building all night starting at 8 p.m. to allow the players to explore [it] overnight and tackle a list of 100 quests," reads an introduction to "Find the Future" (see video below). "Each quest will require players to be in the presence of and be inspired by objects from NYPL's collections. During the evening, players will be led into the stacks to unlock quests."
The 500 chosen to play will be broken into teams of eight, and each team will have to finish as many as four of the quests. When all 100 quests have been completed, the players will create a book out of the responses the players write as part of those tasks. So, for example, faced with one of the many ancient menus in the library's collection, players will have to design their own ideal menu. Or, craft their own sections of a 2011-era Declaration of Independence.
Players will be given "missions" to find the many artifacts in the collection via their smartphones, and they'll prove that they found them by scanning a QR code. At that point, they'll be assigned the writing part of the quest. They'll then submit their work to the game's Web site. The idea is that when all the quests have been completed and unlocked, the general public will be able to play them online and create a personalized "book" of answers. That access will begin on May 21.
But in order to be one of the 500 chosen for the in-person running of "Find the Future," would-be players need to go online starting today and complete an initial quest. A team of judges will pick the best entries. All players must be 18 years or older.