The practice, which turns non-game activities into games, is rampant on sites like Facebook and in the commercial world. In these games, participant rack up points, or achieve levels, or earn fake money, or compete against themselves or others, and so on. (Think “Farmville.”)
I am not much of a game-player (and never online), but I confess that a few years ago, when I was invited to participate in solving a mystery at the Metropolitan Museum, for which the more you knew about art, the better you’d be at finding the culprit, I said yes. In the end, the friend who invited me could not round up the minimum number of people required, and the evening fell through. (Whether the problem was the Met, the lack of art knowledge, or something else (cost?), I do not know.)
Some years ago, the late Thomas Hoving published a book of art games, Master Pieces: The Curator’s Game, which has now been turned into an app for the iPhone and iPad.
The point: gamification of museums is starting to happen: even current non-gamers might fall for gamification, and that might help museums win new audiences.
This isn’t a museum, but there’s a game coming up soon at the New York Public Library. Called “Find the Future: The Game,” it is being directed by acclaimed game expert and author Jane McGonical, author of Reality is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World, pictured above. The game was created with Kiyash Monsef, and designed and developed by Playmatics and Natron Baxter Applied Gaming.
It starts on May 20, and involves staying overnight in the main library on Fifth Avenue. In it, 500 people aged 18 and up “will spend the night exploring the Library and its world-renowned collections as they write a book together,” the member newsletter says. Here’s the description:
During the May 20 “Write All Night” event, from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m., 500 prequalified players (18 and older) will explore the building’s 70 miles of stacks, and, using laptops and smartphones, follow clues to such treasures as the Library’s copy of the Declaration of Independence in Thomas Jefferson’s hand. After finding each object, players will write short, personal essays inspired by their quest — for example, how would they write the Declaration? Winning the game means writing a collaborative book based on these personal stories about the future, and this volume will be added to the Library’s collections.
Sign me up. But that won’t happen. When I went online to see details, I discovered that the game is meant for “young people.” See here.
Last summer, nine Smithsonian Institution museums (including the Hirshhorn and the Freer-Sackler) cooperated in a game called goSmithsonian Trek, which could be played from any iPhone or Android phone. It received some good press.
Are there other examples? Please comment if you know of any.
I’m calling attention to gamification now for a couple of reasons:
- It seems bound to happen at museums, but I hope art museums don’t spend too many resources on it, for now.
- There’s a lot to learn about gamification before that.
- Let’s hope that museum games truly center on the art, and are a learning experience as well as rewarding fun.
- If possible, museums ought to share what they’re learning about gamification.
Competing with big games, developed by big developers, is bound to be expensive.