Let the games begin!

Professional Forum
Kate Haley Goldman, USA , Sharna Jackson, UK

The gaming industry has long understood how to appeal to certain psychological behaviors in people to encourage deeper engagement. Over the last few years, other industries have taken note and added elements of gamification to their experiences to increase appeal, interaction, and enthusiasm. From encouraging user activity with badges and achievements, to inspiring repeat visitation and attention through gameplay mechanics, simple principles underlie the diversity of these experiences.

But these new trends are not all daisies and unicorns. Simply adding gameplay to traditional experiences compromises both sides of the equation and the criticism leveled is that we’ve reduced the behavior of people to little more than monkeys pressing levers for a pellet of food. The real question that needs to be answered is what makes a game truly a game and what elements can be pulled and adapted for museum use if we’re not actually creating real games, but exhibits, programs and online experiences. What helps a game to succeed, where do they fail, and where can they be used a stepping stone to deeper engagement?

Taking theory to practice, we will do a fairly broad review of what’s happening in the non-museum world, what lessons have been learned in those domains, and how they can be applied across exhibits, online content, and attendance.  Drawing on their range of experiences (some effective, some not) in working with projects and institutions that wish to connect with visitors through game mechanics, the authors will address questions of matching mechanics to media and audience.