Focus on museums and games

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Ed Rodley is an exhibit developer with over twenty years experience in all aspects of exhibition developments. He is currently working at Museum of Science in Boston and he is one of the lucky persons who transformed a passion into a profession. He publishes an extremely interesting blog: Thinking about Museums: thoughts on museums, content, design, and why they matter.

We wish to highlight his posts about gaming and museums.

First, he speaks about interactivity: when done well, interactive exhibits can engage visitors in active and prolonged learning experiences of astonishing depth and duration.

He also discusses about the qualities of a good interactive exhibit, keeping in mind that the interactivity needs to be linked both to the exhibition’s content and physical environment. Moreover, the interactive exhibit shall provoke emotional responses, encourage to play, reward visitors and respond to visitors’ actions. last but not least, it has to be visitor focused and easy to understand and use.

Then he goes on deeply into the matter of games, describing the successful characteristics for games to work  in a museum context: easy and friendly rules that players can accept to be submitted to; variable outcomes; players’ engagement; flexible outcomes and consequances.

Further, we learn about “gamification”: the process of applying game principles to non-game activities.

Finally, please enjoy a very nice overview of the most interesting (and fun) museum game apps: Race against Time by Tate Gallery, Meanderthal by Smithsonian, Eduweb’s augmented reality app MoonWalking, LaunchBall by Museum of Science in Boston.

Ed Rodley

And he closes such a wide journey by replying to a big question:

So what can these games teach us?

As I said in my previous app review, trying to synthesize learning from such disparate experiences is a challenge, but there are some things that rise up when I look at these games.

Good games are fun.
Seems like a no-brainer, but as you know, so many “educational” games are educational first and games second (if at all). They’re really gamified (ack) interactives, and they usually suck. If it’s going to be a game, it has to be a game first.

Be in for the long haul
Tate Trumps is on version 5, and has not only fixed bugs, but added major new functionalities as time has gone on. That means the business model has to be a software development model with new version releases and point releases, not a museum exhibition, “Build it and it’s done” model.

Success has costs
I doubt anyone at Science Museum could’ve predicted that Launchball would have such a long life, and morph from being a website to being a mobile app. And whatever agreement they originally had with the developers, I bet it didn’t include this contingency.

Things you can only do with a phone make more appealing apps
Almost all of these apps use the mobile platform to do things you couldn’t do any other way. Using the camera, communication functions, GPS, etc… all make the experience more compelling because it’s obvious that you could only do this with a mobile.

Learn more about Ed Rodley in his blog: http://exhibitdev.wordpress.com/

 

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