BLOG 16th July 2018

Gaming in Galleries and Museums

Games in Museums and Cultural Spaces

Games have become a common feature in cultural spaces as museums and galleries seek new ways to engage audiences with both their collections and the spaces that house them. At the Culture Geek conference this year I head from Rob Cawston, Head of Digital media at National Museums Scotland, and Ben Templeton, independent consultant and creative director.

They talked about the reasons why people play games - simply because they are fun. But they also addressed a lot of the challenges that arts, culture, and heritage organisations face when trying to use games as an audience development tool. It can be difficult to create fun from any collection - you have to find what is playable in the content that you have. 

Sometimes there is a worry that games can trivialise an experience, but Rob and Ben argued that games can act as a welcome and improve the visitor experience. Think of them like the racks of sweets at a checkout – there's no nutritional value, but they are a crowd pleaser. It’s up to you to make sure the content makes it nutritional as well as fun.

How to create the right game?

  • Be clear in your vision – what do you want the game to do? 
  • It’s not about you – it’s about what your audience wants.
  • It needs to focus on content.
  • It doesn’t have to complex.

Here are some of the games mentioned on the day, and other exciting projects we've come across over the years. They range from complex site-specific digital installations, to DIY website quizzes, or some acetate and an overhead projector...

Launchball - The Science Museum


Launchball is an online game where players use levers, fans, and magnets to guide a ball to a goal. It also allows players to design their own levels, with over 10 million levels created in the first few months.

Who Do You Think You Were? - National Portrait Gallery


Who Do You Think You Were is a Buzzfeed style quiz that allows you to 'discover your inner Elizabethan'. Answer a few multiple choice questions and find out which historical figure you're most like. As this game is played through a website it can be presented on museum touchscreens, or played by users on their own phones within or outside the museum. 

We did our own Buzzfeed Quiz here at thrive for Culture Night a couple of years ago. Visitors did the quiz on the spot using an ipad, and it was relatively simple to put together. Here's a guide to creating a Buzzfeed Quiz.

Magic Tate Ball

The Magic Tate Ball is a free app that uses your phone's location and sound info, along with the date, weather, and time of day to give you a personalised artwork when you shake the MagicTate Ball. A bonus hidden feature can only be unlocked by visiting the Tate Modern.

The Light Machine - The Barbican


The Light Machine game was designed in response to a Charles and Ray Eames exhibit. Players start by choosing a title from a range of cards, and then make the image that goes with it on a piece of acetate. An overhead projector can project the images onto the gallery walls.

Capture the Museum - National Museums Scotland


Capture the Museum is a live team game, supported by an app, played across a museum in 30 minutes. Two opposing teams must 'capture' as much museum territory as they can by visiting areas of the building and proving their knowledge of the exhibits.

ARTLENS- Cleveland Museum of Art

Cleveland Museum of Art's ARTLENS is a room containing several interactive games that allow audiences to interact with works and form a personal connection to them. The 'Make a Face' game analyses visitor's facial expressions to match them with one of 189 artworks in the museum's collection. 'Strike a Pose' challenges the visitor to imitate a sculpture, creating more of a physical connection with the work.

Hopefully some of these games have sparked your imagination... If you're working on one yourself, or know of any other nice examples, please get in touch to let us know!

Laura Cusick

Research Analyst

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