By Matt Shoemaker

I am happy to announce that the first and largest phase of the Gen Con 50th Anniversary Programs project is complete and publicly accessible!  You can view the project here: http://www.best50yearsingaming.com/

This project consisted of 3 major components.  1) The creation and cleaning of a data set containing the event information for the convention for all 50 of its years that is available for public use. 2) a public interface to the data set built in Blacklight for easy web browsing and searches and 3) an Omeka site to host historical information, oral histories, and digital scholarship results related to the data set.  We plan to continue to work with this data for digital scholarship research in the DSC as well as use the data set in helping educate students in working with data.

On best50yearsingaming.com, you can explore the events of Gen Con’s present and past, take a historical tour of the locations that have held Gen Con, listen to or read interviews with Gen Con attendees, and learn about the types of research that is conducted using this event information.

Gen Con, originally a wargaming convention,  began in Malvern, PA when, in 1967, 3 gaming club members, Gary Gygax, Bill Speer and Scott Duncan (a Temple alumnus), decided to emulate sci-fi conventions only for gaming. The following year it moved to Lake Geneva, Wisconsin and was named Gen Con as a play on its location and the Geneva Convention Rules for Warfare. The convention has since grown considerably and is now the largest gaming convention in the world and a center for popular culture.  More information can be found in our brief history of Gen Con.

Creation of the data set was by far the largest component of this phase of the project.  First, programs had to be acquired.  A handful were available digitally but the majority were in physical format.  These were all completely scanned at 400dpi and the fed through ABBY Fine Reader OCR software.  Once we had the OCR the really time consuming part began, formatting the data into separate fields of CSV files.  Virtually every program was different, so DSC staff had to devise ways to most efficiently split the data into the 36 fields that made up our spreadsheets.  Sometimes this was using Open Refine, other times Excel, and sometimes just plain old cutting and pasting.

Once we had all of that data formatted how we needed it we had it indexed into a Blacklight site.  Blacklight is a discovery layer that allows you to quickly search through and facet different terms to find the information you need.  This will allow people to easily explore this data set and find some information to inform their questions.

While all of this was going on we also built a companion site in Omeka to provide a platform to post context about the data set, such as oral histories, a timeline, and basic history, as well as somewhere to host any exhibits we wish to host to showcase the types of research performed with this data.   We hope this site will grow with the DSC’s own research using this data set and that of other people.  If you are interested in working with this data set or have ideas of what you would like to do with it let us know!

This has been a great project for the DSC to work on in 2016/2017 and I want to thank all of the DSC and library staff that helped make it possible:

Program digitization and data clean-up:
Jillian Benedict, Luling Huang, Kaelin Jewell, Emily Logan, Ritomaitree Sarkar, Gary Scales, Matt Shoemaker, Crystal Tatis

Blacklight and Omeka systems work:
Chad Nelson, Steven Ng

Web design:
Rachel Cox, Chris Doyle, Matt Shoemaker

Editing:
Jen Grayburn

Omeka exhibitions:
Matt Shoemaker

Principal Investigator:
Matt Shoemaker