I’m in a dance battle with Oliver, one of our teen museum volunteers, trying to move like a peacock spider in love. His moves are slightly better than mine — his head grows to enormous proportions and sprouts antennae. Then fuzzy legs spring from his abdomen. I am … still me. My dance moves just don’t cut it.
We were testing out a new game at the California Academy of Sciences, part of our latest exhibit “Color of Life.” Visitors jump, slide, and shimmy in front of a giant video screen that shows different animals engaged in their energetic mating dances. The better you dance, the more your silhouette resembles the creature. It’s a lot of fun, and inspires visitors to learn more about how color is used in the natural world.
Games and game-like experiences are becoming more and more the norm for museums around the world — from various forms of digital games, to card and table-top games, to interactive fiction games with props, actors, and sets. But how effective are games at imparting knowledge, developing deeper understanding, and inspiring action by museum visitors?
Some recent studies provide some interesting findings and possibilities for games in museums. In 2014, SFMOMA commissioned a white paper on games and museums focused on art museums. They found that while many art museums were experimenting with incorporating games experiences into their institutions, it was hard to create a truly innovative, effective museum game. A 2012 study of mobile games used by museums found that games lead to increased visitor engagement and knowledge about an exhibit, but that learning was largely confined to factual knowledge. More recently, last June, James Collins, of the Smithsonian, presented a webinar on “Museum Games: State of the Industry Today and Where Games Can Go.” Collins shares useful tips for museum educators and interactive designers for creating effective museum games, as well as examples of more innovative games he’s encountered. Well worth the 22 minutes to watch.
But what about your own institution? How are you incorporating games and play into your exhibits, your educational programs, your online interactions? Come join AMNH’s Barry Joseph, the Field Museum’s Eve Gaus, the Blanton Museum’s Koven Smith and me at the Museums and the Web conference from April 6-9 in Los Angeles. We’ll lead conference participants in creating a “Pop-up Museum” where you can design, play and discuss games in museums. Our two sessions are:
- Session 1: Thursday, April 7, 3:30pm – 5:00pm Opening the MWXX Pop-up Museum: Gaming Square Pegs into Dinosaur-shaped Holes
- Session 2: Saturday, April 9, 10:30am – 12:00pm Closing and Reflecting on the MWXX Pop-up Museum
Don’t forget to bring artifacts from past Museums and the Web events to add to our pop-up museum. See Barry Joseph’s blog post for more information. See you there!
NOTE: Crossposted to Museums and the Web blog.