Title:Museum Games: Some Strategies for Achieving Project Goals
Authors:Elizabeth Goins
Publication:MW2011: Museums and the Web 2011

This paper examines the different strategies that may be used to develop museum games by focusing on two case studies currently underway at the Rochester Institute of Technology. The type of game and game play are the basic structural components of the game. Much like the narrative of a story, the game components must support the desired outcomes. Lack of clear definition of outcomes early in the design process may lead to games that do not address those outcomes. In addition, assessment is critical to understanding whether the game was successful and achieved the project goals. This paper reviews the different approaches taken by the development team in order to reach the educational goals and the methods of assessment incorporated into the projects from the outset.

The Rochester Institute of Technology and the Luce Center for American Art at the Smithsonian partnered together last year to create a prototype Facebook game application, myMuseum. A museum outreach tool in the form of a Facebook game, myMuseum incorporates contact zones and third space theory[1] to develop a model that would:

  • Engage nontraditional audiences
  • Provide interactive and meaningful access to digitized collections
  • Stimulate museum-community interaction
  • Teach basic terms and cognitive skills necessary to engage with museum objects
  • Change the perception of the museum from authoritative to collaborative

The second project is a role playing game (RPG) prototype being developed by RIT and the University of Delaware. In contrast to myMuseum, the Venerable Historian uses a quest type narrative structure to incorporate specific educational goals and outcomes for material culture education. The quest structure allows for the incorporation of the formal assessment methods required by educators working within post-secondary and higher education. The goals of the Venerable historian were to:

  • Create a tool that could be used both informally and incorporated into formal learning curricula for young adults
  • Develop different styles of quest narratives that combine high levels of engagement and achieve learning objectives
  • Bring together the multidisciplinary approaches used to study material culture in order to give students a broader understanding of the material

RPGs allow the player to immerse themselves in the world of the game. The game narrative is advanced through interactive quests that engage the player within the process. The Venerable Historian prototype focuses on the incorporation and assessment of pedagogical goals within some standard RPG quest formats and on finding the right balance between engagement (fun) and learning.


[1] Goins, "Museum Games and the Third Space." Michigan State University, 2010.