Art Museums and Games: Getty Games

The Getty is a fantastic institution whose educational programs are well-respected in the museum education field.  The mission states:

The J. Paul Getty Museum seeks to inspire curiosity about, and enjoyment and understanding of, the visual arts by collecting, conserving, exhibiting and interpreting works of art of outstanding quality and historical importance. To fulfill this mission, the Museum continues to build its collections through purchase and gifts, and develops programs of exhibitions, publications, scholarly research, public education, and the performing arts that engage our diverse local and international audiences. 

I was thrilled to find “Getty Games” amongst their online programs.  It’s 100% accessible as no log in is required, and the programs can be found under the “To Do At Home“.  Like the Tate’s Race Against Time, the games are not meant to played in the gallery and are not available as apps.

I started with the “Detail Detective” game primarily because of its catchy name.  We discussed the importance of name in our Games and Play in Education class.  The name must attract but also must NOT mislead the user into thinking the game is more than it is.  The game starts with a screen that allows the user to pick a theme.  1 point for allowing the user to have some control of the content!  Museums are notorious for controlling every piece of information.  Unfortunately I had to immediately take this point away  due to the obnoxious sound that is impossible to turn off unless you silence your computer.  Trust me.  It’s terrible.  At this point I started to realize how outdated the game design was.  It looks like it was created in the early 2000s.  The design is very simple, which is not necessarily bad, until if affects the gameplay.



The different themes.  


I picked “Swanky Surfaces”.  Again, this was strictly because of the name.  I have to say, I am disappointed that they could not come up with a more exciting title to “Architecture”.  I think they could have done better than that.

I surmised from the title that I would be looking at details of objects and art, and having to match it to the correct object.  I am not sure a child would be so intuitive.  Unfortunately there are not instructions until you get to the start of the game.  At this point you are already being timed.  You waste roughly 10 seconds trying to read the instructions.  In that sense, the game is quite difficult.  Some of the images did not load properly, which made it impossible to play the game.


Here’s a challenge!  How do I play a game that’s invisible??


I have several important critiques of the game:

1) Outdated:  This game is so obviously outdated that it’s painful to play.  Children are growing up with incredibly imaginative and innovative games and programs.  And I know that they Getty understands this per their recent partnership with the innovative digital learning site, Khan Academy.  The museum should consider updating their website.  Please start with the sound.

2)  You do not learn anything while playing:  The game includes an icon shaped like a book.  Clicking that leads you to more information about the artwork, but you have to interrupt the game in order to access this information.  By playing this game, you learn absolutely nothing about the objects.

3) Why is this game timed?  You’re supposed to be studying details of artwork.  Imagine you’re at an actual museum looking at art and suddenly a buzzer goes off and you have to move on.  I guarantee that no one would come back.  It is almost as obnoxious as that sound at the beginning of the game.

I sent a tweet out to the Getty inquiring when the last time this program was updated.  I’ll updated this post if I receive a response!  I’m hoping they’ll reply with “We’re working on it now!”  Solid effort, but it seems like one of those programs that was created for the sake of creating one.

UPDATE:  The Getty tweeted back!  They admitted it had been a while since they last updated the games, but they did create a mobile game.  It’s really geared towards children who are at museum, rather than those who are interacting virtually.  That’s not to say that the Getty is not being accessible to those outside of the Los Angeles area.  I noted above that they recently partnered with the Khan Academy.  They were the first museum to do so.  The Met and MoMA has also followed suit and recently partnered with the Khan Academy.



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