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Why Museums and Science Centres Should Have Game Installations

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Museums have changed a lot over the past hundred years. Once solely focused on specimen collection and preservation, they have grown into attractions, communities and information hubs. Of course every institution is different, but we’ve seen pretty broad changes in what museums can and should be over the years. In this post I want to talk about how games can contribute to these science-based attractions. I think this discussion applies to museums, science centres and other knowledge-based public forums, for short I’ll just use the term “attraction” to refer to them collectively here.

The role, understanding and importance of informal education has been steadily increase the past hundred years. This has been led by a range of important educational thinkers from Dewey and Montesorri to more modern innovators like Papert, Bloom and Kolb. We explored both theories and practice in new ways, experimenting with learning materials, learning paths and learning environments. No one theory or practice has shown itself to be the absolute best. This diversity of concepts has given us many more tools to enhance our understanding and practice in education. Human development is complicated, as is implementation, different students and their situations call for different best practices for different learning and development. We’ve enhanced the science of education, but ultimately learning is so human that it will always be an art.

This makes the job of learning-based institutions, including attractions, so difficult. To be able to build models and practices that can speak to anyone, to engage everyone and reveal the truth and beauty of our universe. It’s an incredible challenge, but also an amazing opportunity. The increased diversity of learning concepts have also broadened what attractions are and can be. Its an incredible time to be a designer in that field. There’s more opportunity, and I think more interest from the public, in what attractions can be and offer.

I think educational video games are an incredibly opportunity for attractions to enhance learning and engagement. They’re the natural extension of what learning-based attractions can and should be. Engaging all the media potential and agency of video games allows us to explore concepts in the greatest depth, fidelity and accessibility possible. How else can we conjure world’s to explore with audio and video, active control, personal perspective, dialogue and narrative, in a user specified language so instantly and seamlessly? It can be such a powerful tool, so let’s take a look at the benefits more closely.


You can only teach folks that pay some attention. If you can’t get and hold an audience you can’t convey the information. Engagement is job number one, if you fail at it, nothing else can happen. Attractions face this even more, their purpose isn’t solely to educate, but also to entertain. Getting good engagement has to be a top priority for an attraction. Video games are phenomenal for engagement. Youth flock to them. They offer visual and audio cues to the would be audience. They offer narrative and agency, giving a depth of experience that can’t be beat. Gameplay can offer rewarding mechanics and incentives for replay. This allows video games to not only draw people in initially, but to keep drawing them back.

Video games are also easier to expand and update compared to physical installations, increasing the long term potential of engagement. As generations change, games are simply going to be expected as a part of media. I think attractions that don’t involved with them, and begin creating a corporate knowledge and comfort with them will be left behind. There’s both a push and pull dynamic here, lacking games will be a mark against attractions, but those that excel at them will be rewarded with success beyond current expectations.


While video games provide an amazing opportunity to engage and entertain, it doesn’t mean they have to sacrifice educational potential. Thoughtful, well designed games do inform. They can provide a level of simulation, immersion, trial and error, perspective and depth that is unparalleled by other mediums. We can create and present entire world’s of information available in depth, in multiple media, with the potential for multilingual support, all at the user’s whim and agency. This allows games to not just present information, repeat it, or even contextualize it, but to bring it to life in active interactive systems, and allow the user to explore, test and incorporate it.

Games can provide a depth of information that can’t be beat. Additional opt-in information, whether text, diagram or even interactive can be incorporated so that the user can drill down into subjects as deep as they want without bothering uninterested users, or using up valuable real estate to convey that knowledge. This keeps the knowledge available deep, but the accessibility clear with clean interfaces and signage for engagement. Outside the structure and support of formal learning, dynamic and engaged learning like games is, in my opinion, the best way to achieve learning results, especially when designed to engage some level of social learning. Of course take-homes, additional support, teacher’s kits, websites and other follow up and support can also be developed to allow the game to feed and support a larger system of learning, formal or informal.


To me a good game needs to inspire the player. They should walk away feeling awe at history, amazed at the depth and beauty of the universe, assured of their skills, in wonder at worlds of imagination, excited towards the future, or called to act. Games are a wonderful medium for showcasing worlds of potential and imagination. Good games can capture this magic and personalize it like no other media, thanks to their interactive nature that provides players a sense of involvement and agency. We’ve all seen inspiring movies and television, it’s a shame that the inspirational nature and potential of games is so poorly understood and recognized in society so far. I think that’s changing. Bold, visionary, informative, socially- and environmentally-conscious games are out their and are starting to be taken notice of. I think attractions can be a wonderful partner in helping the medium of games explore their potential and gain recognition for their artistry.


Why go? It’s the most fundamental question an attraction has to ask about itself. What attracts people to attractions, well fun, excitement, and information are all up there, but sooner or later the conversation will involve competition. Attractions aren’t in a pitched fight against each other, but they are at a constant fight with easier options – most notably couch potato syndrome. It’s always easier for people to stay home. This is one of the reasons that people often have a bad view of video games. They’re a current flash point of blaming people for staying home, the way television was before them.

Attractions need to offer something people can’t get at home. Often this has meant big (and expensive) physical exhibits – animatronic dinosaurs, IMAX theatres, laser shows, and such. These are huge decisions for an attraction, multimillion dollar installations that dominate a building. Smaller unique offerings can help attractions gain attention and offer unique reasons to go that are a lot easier to pay for, install, update and replace. Games can be this. Digital games are a nearly spaceless, easy to update, low maintenance, relatively low cost option to explore. Custom designed games can’t be had anywhere else. They give you a unique draw, people have to come to you to explore and enjoy them. They can explore any topic, fitting into any subject, theme, branding or strategy. By investing in custom-created games only available at them, especially one’s tied in to an attraction’s unique brand and offerings, they can create unique draws that they can update and rotate easily to stay relevant and keep people wanting to come.


Anything with good engagement is a good opportunity for promotion. It’s important to remember that anything that’s performing well on the exhibit floor can be a source of promotion. A new video game installation can be an easy local new piece pitch, especially when combined with some kind of launch or yearly event tied to it. To help with promotional efforts, remember that custom made games can provide rich media to use in materials and campaigns. They don’t just make it easier to succeed, they make it easier technically to pull it off. Another option is that custom-created video games can be made as web or mobile games, so they can be publicly accessed. This allows an attraction to reach people world wide with the game and can be a powerful promotional tool, though it costs the unique incentive to visit. This can be countered with a onsite variation, integration or reward system allowing attractions to get the best of both worlds.

The Bottom Line

Games can be an amazing tool for museums, science centres and other attractions. They can assist with marketing, elevate the impact of learning and science communication, help develop and reinforce branding, and create unique draws to attract and engage an audience, potentially world-wide! They are an amazing opportunity, not the threat too many perceive them as. By getting to know, understand and incorporate games and game-based learning learning-based attractions can build for their ongoing success in the 21st century. Any attraction interested in learning more about custom-created games can check out our other articles, or email us. We’re happy to answer questions and we offer free consultations to help you understand more about how games could help your organization succeed and how to commission a game project. At Massive Corporation we’re not just game developers, we’re educational experts, so we’d love to help you succeed! Drop us a line today!