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Metadata Games

An Open Source Electronic Game for Archival Data Systems

In our work with the Digital Humanities Start Up Grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), we have created a working example of a free, open source, internet‐based computer game system for augmenting access to archival records. We have developed a suite of minigames for the collection of metadata, initially for the Rauner Library at Dartmouth College. This project is a pilot for a larger open source initiative that will allow other institutions to use the games in their archives. Examples of metadata games include:

Zen Tag

    is our simplest game– actually, a naming activity — where participants just name what they see. For some reason, it is a compelling activity for the public and the team alike!

Guess What?

    is a two-player game where players have to choose an image from an array of images based on clues sent to them by the networked partner. The partner sees only one image and what their partner is guessing.

Increasingly, archivists across the US recognize that the mission of the archival institution is not only the acquisition, storage, description, and preservation of historical materials. The need to make the archive accessible – to provide usable tools and quality access to the material across members of society—is a dominant mission for many of today’s archivists. Having a suite of games enables database managers to custom link to the most effective and appropriate game front ends for their data.

Our interdisciplinary team specializes in both archives management and in creating innovative and popular digital tools and games. Digital systems can allow for collaboration, searching, and linking, and these features could enhance the ability of researchers to find data currently obscured by lack of description. “Alum Tag,” for example, was designed to add metadata to a large collection of photographs donated by Dartmouth alumni to the college’s archives.

How can the strengths of current digital tools enhance the environment and the collection of the archive? Can our team harness the power of both technology and ‘crowds’ of individual researchers to help solve the challenges faced by archivists in representing their data with rich meta‐tags? Can the use of player choice enhance access to the archive, and at the same time, offer surprise, coincidence, provenance, and the discovery of new relationships?

Contact us if you wish to participate in building or testing new games or new features! We love collaborators!

Metadata Games website

Play Alum Tag




  • Designers: Mary Flanagan, Zara Downs
  • Collaborator: Peter Carini, Rauner Archive
  • Dartmouth Student Designers: Linden Vongsathorn, Brendan Scully, Cole Ott
  • Dartmouth Student Game Testers: Alicia Driscoll, Max Seidman
  • Content Specialist: Peter Carini, College Archivist, Rauner Library
  • Programming: Vincent Van Ufflen, Robinson Tryon; Additional Programming: Sukdith Punjasthitkul; Prototype: Joshua Weinberg
  • General Support and Project Coordination: Sukdith Punjasthitkul, Furtherfield.org
  • Game Programming: Robinson Tryon, Vincent Van Ufflen, Joshua Weinberg, Charlie Whitney, and Cecile Williams
  • Advisory Board:
    Brian Brantner – Computer Scientist at Adobe Systems
    Dr. Drew Davidson – Entertainment Technology Center Program Director, Pittsburgh, Carnegie Mellon University
    Tracy Fullerton—Associate Professor and Chair, USC School of Cinematic Arts, Interactive Media Division; Director, Electronic Arts Game Innovation Lab; and EA Endowed Chair in Interactive Entertainment
    Dr. Celia Pearce—Director, Experimental Game Lab, School of Literature, Communication & Culture, Georgia Institute of Technology

* Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed on this web page do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

  • Tiltfactor invents new ways of thinking about important social issues through engaging games and play. Founded and directed by leading innovator Dr. Mary Flanagan, Tiltfactor is the award-winning design studio and research laboratory that takes on problem areas of national need and creates solutions through playful design.