Why is “game” still a naughty word in museums?

Interactivity in museums has been proven time and time again to enhance the learning experience. So why are curators wary of having interactive elements seem too “game” like?

Certainly, it’s easy to fall into this trap of feeling like the word “game” sounds frivolous, but with even a modicum of effort, a museum game can provide educational and curatorial insight that might not be possible using “traditional” methods.

museumgamingAs a great example of educational interactivity, here’s a look at a project we did last year for the Comanche National Museum that was a MUSE Award Bronze winner for interactivity.

The goal was to immerse visitors into the importance and complexity of a bison hunt, with the take ways focusing on how bison functioned as an integral part of Comanche life and society.

We actually pitched this to them as a “first person shooter” game approach — the same highly realistic, over-the-shoulder visual style of games like Grand Theft Auto — because they needed to have a very true environment and hunt experience.

It would have been easy for them to scoff at the notion of emulating a “hard core gamer” type of interactive had we not clearly illustrated how we could adapt this visual approach and engagement of a popular game type and use it to amplify the insight of an exhibit.

The end result is that the interactive is so popular among visitors that they are now finalizing details to take it on the road, including at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian.

Why get so hung up on what something is called as long as it produces the desired results?

And especially considering that digital games can transcend the physical gallery/exhibit space, there’s never been a better way to spread your message and insight outside museum walls.

The fact of the matter is that the museum-goer is quickly and radically transforming into someone who expect to engage with an exhibit, so no matter what it’s called, providing digital experiences to deliver proven hands-on learning is a win.

Agree? Disagree? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

Layla Masri

About Layla Masri

Layla is a co-founder of Bean Creative. She leverages her ad agency background and 15-plus years as a marketing and web copywriter to maximize interactive impact for strategic planning, usability/accessibility, and digital promotion.
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