Art Museums and Games: The Tate’s Race Against Time

Like I mentioned in an earlier post, museums and games are a tricky subject.  There are those who applaud the attempt at making exhibits more interactive, and there are those who label ‘interactives’ as distractions.  I fall somewhere in the middle.  I think including educational games is an important addition that more art museums should invest in, but I also believe that if they aren’t using the museum objects than they are not adding to the museum visit.  Instead, they are distracting.  My first game evaluation comes from the Tate.  In 2012, the museum released its first app game, Race Against Time.  The game is available for a free iPhone download in the App Store.  One point for accessibility!  Anyone, well anyone with an iPhone, can download the game and play it!

The game follows the clever narrative of a chameleon who is traveling through art history to stop Dr. Greyscale from removing all of the color from the world.  You, as the chamelon, have to jump over obstacles as the background transforms into different moments in art history.  One of my favorites was level three where you have to avoid spiky cacti.  Why?  Well it’s 1922 and you might be looking at one of Diego Rivera’s murals.


I love the narrative.  I think it is very clever.  The game definitely gets points for the story and for the simple, yet creative design.  I also love the incorporation of art historical facts.  However, you don’t see them unless you die and click the question mark on your headstone.  Therefore, you have the potential of playing the game without ever seeing any of this information.  


The age range for this game varies drastically.  All you really have to know how to do is operate a touch screen.  There are no prerequisites for succeeding in the game as you do not need to know any art history before playing the game.  In terms of re-playability, the score is low.  The game doesn’t change. except for the backgrounds and objects to avoid, and the narrative does not change level to level.  In my opinion, that is a great missed opportunity.  The narrative is great!  Take advantage of that, continue the story throughout the levels so we can see if our work is succeeding in keeping color in the world.  

I liked the game, but I did not love it.  To summarize:


-Creative narrative

-Interesting graphics/design

-Incorporation of art historical facts

-Accessibility, free and digital (do not have to be physically present at museum in order to play)

-Background music is from that era depending on what level you are one



-No re-playability

-Timing of facts, why are we “punishing” our kids with art history facts when they die?

-Dull, game play does not change.

Another gripe I had is that the connection to the Tate is lost when you begin playing the game.  You see the the museum prominently featured in the introduction, but not after that.  I almost forgot who created the game.

Jane Burton, Head of Content and Creative Director, Tate, says:

“Our aim is to bring art to new audiences who are interested in a more playful experience than cultural institutions typically offer.  With stunning graphics, addictive gameplay and stylish soundtrack we think Race Against Time will do just that.”

I’m not quite sure who they are addressing.  The game is clearly targeted at children, but she does not explicitly say this in her quote.  The museum needs to do a better job of addressing their audience.  Adults will not play this game, but might be interested in a more playful experience. 

Another question she does not address is that of the replacement of the physical visit.  She might be trying to reach a new audience with this game, but how will this game welcome them to the museum?  It doesn’t.

Overall, I liked the game but I did not love it.  I was very excited to try it out after looking at some of the other games offered through the Tate website but was a little disappointed at its delivery.  I may explore the Tate’s other games in a later post, but for now, keep on learning!






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