Art Museums and Games: National Gallery of Art: Sea-Saws

Another nautical themed game!  This time, from the National Gallery of Art (NGA).  The D.C museums have been quietly creating game based programming over the past several years.  I say quietly because most people (and by most people I mean me) did not realize this until recently.  One of the most impressive projects came from the Luce Foundation Center for American Art, which I will talk about in a later post.

Sea-Saws is one game in a series from the NGAkids Art Zone.  Right away I was impressed with the modern layout and game features.  From this page, you definitely get the sense that the NGA invests a lot of time and money in their online programs.  Who knows, maybe this has something to do with the dot gov versus the dot org.  The games are easy to find as they have their own section under “Education”.  The games are less educational in the sense that you aren’t learning facts, but you are learning art historical terms and ideas through creating your own art.

I think this game is targeted towards older, tech savvy children because it took me much longer to figure out the gameplay than it normally does.  I often don’t read directions for digital games because the majority of the time, games are intuitive.  There were aspects that were definitely intuitive, but there were also aspects that were not.

When you start the game, there aren’t really any instructions.  There are some instructions pages below, but if you click them then you’re taken out of the game and to a new page with the instructions.  I can’t imagine a young child grasping the game right away, so the NGA might want to rethink that idea.

My other observation was that the design was not very kid friendly.  The text is very small and quite frankly, it’s boring.  The design doesn’t hold my attention for more than 5 minutes, so it probably won’t hold a child’s attention.


Not very kid-friendly...

Not very kid-friendly…


The idea of the game is to

Select photographs of natural and man-made objects, then assemble the pieces to create a seascape or an abstract composition. The BUILD tool helps you construct animated characters. ADD them to your scene as still objects, movers, rockers, or rollers. Hit the green PLAY button to set the scene in motion.

The materials are amazing!  There’s a wide array of objects to choose from!  The possibilities are pretty endless.  My favorites were the blue and green colored glass.  I obviously used that for the ocean.  I spent at least 20 minutes designing a scene and then got confused about how to delete an object and ended up clearing the ENTIRE design.  Which is why you won’t be able to see my finished product.  Sorry.


  • Interesting concept – found materials are one of my favorite mediums and it teaches students to look critically at objects
  • Replay-ablity is HUGE.  You could create so many designs and there is the option to print or save them.
  • Design is pretty impressive and looks updated


  • Confusing instructions – I still do not know how to delete an object…
  • Design isn’t very kid friendly – Looks like it’s targeted to adults rather than children
  • Educational value – This game is definitely fun, but I would really like to see how it connects to the museum and its objects.  Not once does it mention an artist who uses found objects.

Coming up next is MoMA!


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