Title:Performing Heritage and Creating Community Through Digital Games, Narrative Agency and Critical Play
Authors:Lissa Holloway-Attaway, Björn Berg Marklund
Publication:MW2020: MuseWeb 2020

Interactive digital media, and in particular digital games, are an increasingly prevalent component of museums and other public cultural spaces to help engage visitors. However, despite their growing presence, they remain under-explored in the ways they mediate a wide variety of cultural expressions and interactions through their differing and unique narrative affordances. Such storytelling differences must be accounted for in order to understand how they may be facilitated and curated with visitors/players in mind. The medium is defined by diminished authorial control in favor of free play and individual agency of expression for players. As such games for heritage present interesting challenges for those who may want to develop, facilitate, and curate them in cultural contexts and with historically accurate content. In fact, the lack of control over content once it becomes interactive and playful can present significant challenges to museum curators, pedagogues and guides. As facilitators of cultural knowledge, they often need to strike a balance between informing visitors/players about cultural heritage and history through deliberately crafted narratives - something museums are well equipped to do - while also providing players with more agency to individually express themselves and to re-write cultural heritage stories and histories through narrative play. In this paper, we present three case studies that exemplify how digital games can be used to give children a less restrictive narrative framework in which they can perform and express history and cultural heritage, rather than by merely re-enacting it. Through these three cases, we describe the processes involved in using digital games as a collaborative stage, or performative platform, on which participants can c