Art Museums and Games: A Suggestion for MoMA

I love MoMA Audio+ but if I worked at MoMA, I would add something…

Technology is not only changing the way we learn in formal environments, but informal environments as well.  Museums are embracing technology in a multitude of ways.  From online courses to mobile apps, museums have become advocates for educational technologies.  However, museums have yet to fully embrace the power or interactive games in the gallery space.  While some museums have introduced analog games, these are mostly geared towards children and don’t embrace the use of technology.  I believe that museums will benefit immensely by combining technology and the use of interactive games in the galleries.

Upon entering The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), you are met with choices.  Should I take an audio-guided tour?  Should I take a public tour?  Should I skip the tour altogether and explore on my own?  In a museum like MoMA, with its massive collection, the choices can be overwhelming and at times, the choice hardly feels like your own.  For example, both the audio guided tours and the public tours entail pre-chosen works of art picked by a staff member or volunteer, not the visitor.  While some visitors appreciate the direction, others walk away feeling as though their experience was stolen from them.  I wondered, how can museums create a program that helps visitors decide where to go and what to see without dictating their entire visit for them?  And furthermore, how can the museum use a program to foster an interest in modern and contemporary art?

Program Overview:

 I propose a tour program that not only utilizes technology but also allows for visitor interaction.  The program will allow visitors to cater each tour based on their interests.  The program, entitled MoMA Game+ will be administered through MoMA’s Audio+ platform.  Upon starting the game, you will be asked a series of short questions.  These questions determine the initial interests of the visitor.  Sample questions could be:

1)    Pick a medium

  1. Architecture and Design
  2. Drawings
  3. Film
  4. Media and Performance Art
  5. Painting and Sculpture
  6. Photography
  7. Prints and Illustrated Books

2)    Pick a color:

  1. Blue
  2. Red
  3. Yellow
  4. Gray

3)    Pick a term:

  1. Dada
  2. Mural
  3. Gouache
  4. Modernism

Simple questions like these will help determine a starting point.  The game will have many to begin with and each time the visitor begins the game, they will be asked one of these random questions.  All questions are meant for the visitor to begin thinking about the art they will see.  As you see from above, some questions are more vague (like color) while others are more specific.   After selecting your answer to the question, a piece of art will pop up on the screen.  The visitor now has the choice to like or dislike the piece.  If the visitor decides to “like” the piece, they will be shown a direct route on where to find it.  If they “dislike” it, a different piece will be determined by their reaction to the current selection.  Upon reaching the piece of art, the visitor will be shown a description of the piece with pertinent information such as artist, materials, and year it was created.  Using the capabilities on MoMA Audio+, the visitor has the option to listen to or view supplemental material as well.  The game will also include discussion options at each stop.  If you are with a group, you will be encouraged to discuss within your group and there will be an opportunity for every member of your group to participate through the multiplayer option.  If you are on your own, you have the option of uploading a comment to a discussion board.  MoMA Audio+ also has a camera component where visitors can take photos of themselves or the artwork and email it to themselves or friends.  The sharing component is very important to the interactive nature of the game.   At this point, future selections will be determined by the visitor’s “likes” and “dislikes”.  Visitors are essentially curating their own tour.

Another component of MoMA Audio+ is the “My Path” feature.  MoMA Game+, will also utilize this tool.  The My Path feature allows visitors to save their visit at the museum.  They can refer to it from the comfort of their homes and add to it on their next visit to the museum.  MoMA Game+, will save the visitor’s preferences and continue building upon them when they visit the museum next.  That way when visitors return to the museum to play the game again, they will be able to pick up where they left off and have a new experience each time they return to the museum.

In order to promote multiple visits, visitors can earn milestones and badges that can also be shared with their friends and on MoMA.org.  The Dallas Museum of Art recently announced a new membership program that rewards visitors for repeat visits.  DMA Friends & Partners is a membership program where members earn credits for their participation and visits to the museum.  Examples of rewards include, discounts to programs, behind the scenes access, and more.[1]  Giving visitors a goal and rewards for completing goals will have a hugely positive impact on the museum.  In the Dallas Museum of Art case, over 35,000 people have already enrolled in the program with 94% saying they had no prior relationship with the museum.[2]  MoMA Game+ will operate in a similar way, encouraging and rewarding visitors for coming back and building upon their interest in contemporary art. 

Why is technology important?

 Digital learning tools are becoming an increasingly important tool in museum education and an important tool in making the museum more accessible to the public.  The majority of the public uses technology on a daily basis, so by using technology in the gallery space, museums are able to stay relevant with a large portion of the public.[3]  The MoMA Audio+ also allows visitors to access more information than what they receive through the wall text.  For example, if a visitor comes across a piece that they are interested in learning more about, the museum now has the capabilities to share further information through this application.  Technology is increasing the size of MoMA’s audience, brand awareness, and the amount of information they are able to give to the public.  However, it’s important not to let this information get stagnant.  It should be presented in a fun and entertaining way.

 Why are interactive games important?

 Museums are utilizing educational gaming in the galleries because it is a beneficial learning tool.  In the National Public Radio (NPR) segment, Museums in the 21st Century: Interactive Games Make Museums A Place to Play, Elizabeth Blair describes a recent initiative at the Luce Foundation Center for American Art in Washington D.C.  The museum invited a group of teenagers into the museum for a “multimedia scavenger hunt where objects in the collection are part of the clues and you need cell phones with text messaging to solve them.”[4]  While research on the benefits of educational gaming is still new, Georgina Goodland of the Luce Center says that’s only part of the Center’s goal.  “Changing the mindset and having them look at an art museum in a more positive way, I think is our main goal.”[5]  Although this game is geared towards teenagers, the same idea can be applied to adults.  Beth Merritt of the Center for the Future of Museums in Washington D.C. states, “Why shouldn’t adults play games.  It’s still the most effective way to learn.”[6]  By using interactive games in the galleries, MoMA will not only create a positive environment for visitors, but they will also encourage learning.

Why MoMA?

 As I mentioned above, MoMA is already implementing their MoMA Audio+ application.  Introducing a new facet to the program will only add to the success of the program and provide visitors with more options when using the device.  Visitors would be able to choose between an already planned tour, or one that they create through playing MoMA Game+.  MoMA is just beginning to develop brand awareness through their digital programs and online presence.  This addition to the Audio + program will continue to build that brand and make MoMA a leader in interactive technologies.  In addition, MoMA currently offers gallery games for children, such as “Everyone’s a Critic” and “Material Bingo”[7].  However, they do not offer any games that use technology nor benefit an adult audience.  MoMA Game+ will be a perfect addition to MoMA’s digital offerings and fill the gap in adult gaming.

How will this benefit MoMA and its visitors?

In addition to filling the gap of adult games, MoMA Game+ will encourage repeat visits to MoMA.  Standard tours don’t have this same effect.  However, with this program, visitors will have the opportunity to see a new tour each time they visit the museum.  Thus, each visit will be uniquely theirs.  Visitors will develop an appreciation and a unique interest in art.  Like I mentioned above, MoMA is building their brand awareness through their digital presence.  With the addition of MoMA Game+, the museum will ensure a continuance in their increased brand awareness.

The bottom line is that visitors each come to the museum with a different goal in mind.  Using John Falks’ definitions of visitor characteristics[8], we can see that this program will provide at least one interest from each group.  Explorers are defined as curious individuals.  They come to museums seeking a new experience. MoMA Game+ relates to explorers the most because it provides a new experience each time a visitor uses it.  They are able to build upon their curiosities with each visit.  Socializes come to museums, typically in a group, and they are more concerned with having an enjoyable experience with their friends and family.  Using the multi-player section of MoMA Game+, a group can share one device and takes turns picking the piece of art.  With the “Discussion” tab, Socializers can discuss the art with their friends and/or in on the message board.  Hobbyists will also enjoy their experience with MoMA Game+ because it allows them to build upon their interests or form new ones.  Experience seekers, who are interested in seeing the museum’s most famous pieces, have the ability to see their own curated highlights.  Rechargers go to museums for solace and/or a spiritual experience.  Though they are the least likely to benefit from this program, I believe it will attract this group of visitors by offering a one on one experience.  Since the visitor is in control of the visit, rechargers are most likely to have a relaxing experience in front of pieces that they enjoy.  After using the game to find out what those pieces are, they can save them with the My Path feature.  This way rechargers never lose track of artwork that fuels that spiritual experience.

Conclusion

While museums have begun to explore the use of interactive gallery games, there is not a game that allows for the visitor to explore their interests in a fun, engaging and interactive way.  Adding MoMA Games+ to MoMA Audio+ will benefit the museum in countless ways.  From attracting all visitor types to increasing MoMA’s brand awareness and paving the way for interactive games for adults.  I look again to Beth Merritt of the Center for the Future of Museums.  She believes in 10-20 years, the best museums will be interactive and engaging through the use of games.  I believe we should start now.

To find a prototype of this game, click here: MoMA Game+

 

Works Cited

Blair, Elizabeth. “Interactive Games Make Museums A Place To Play.” NPR. NPR, n.d. Web. 23 Nov. 2013. <http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=99244253&gt;.

“Dallas Museum Of Art Gets $9 Million Gift.” CBS Dallas  Fort Worth. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 Nov. 2013. <http://dfw.cbslocal.com/2013/11/05/dallas-museum-of-art-gets-9-million-gift/&gt;.

“Dallas Museum of Art.” Dallas Museum of Art. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 Nov. 2013. <http://dma.org/Visit/Friends/index.htm#Activity_Codes&gt;.

“FAMILY VISITS.” MoMA. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 Nov. 2013. <http://www.moma.org/learn/kids_families/visits#games&gt;.

Falk, John H.. “The Visitor.” Identity and the museum visitor experience. Walnut Creek, Calif.: Left Coast Press, 2009. 67-89. Print.

Mazzolla, Lisa . “Marketing, Outreach, and Technology-Based Educational Experiences.” Museum Education. Museum of Modern Art. New York University, New York. 14 Nov. 2013. Lecture.

“MoMA AUDIO+.” MoMA. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 Nov. 2013. <http://www.moma.org/visit/plan/atthemuseum/momaaudio&gt;.

Bodinson, Sara . “MoMA Audio+.” Teaching with Technology: Approaches to Mobile and Digital Learning in Museum Education. New York City Museum Educators Roundtable. Sony Wonder Technology Lab, New York City. 18 Nov. 2013. Lecture.

“The Museum of Modern Art Announces MoMA Audio+ | MoMA Online Press Office.” MoMA Online Press Office RSS. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 Nov. 2013. <http://press.moma.org/2013/10/moma-audio-plus/&gt;.

 

[1]”Dallas Museum of Art.” Dallas Museum of Art. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 Nov. 2013. <http://dma.org/Visit/Friends/index.htm#Activity_Codes&gt;.

[2]”Dallas Museum Of Art Gets $9 Million Gift.” CBS Dallas  Fort Worth. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 Nov. 2013. <http://dfw.cbslocal.com/2013/11/05/dallas-museum-of-art-gets-9-million-gift/&gt;.

[3] Mazzolla, Lisa . “Marketing, Outreach, and Technology-Based Educational Experiences.” Museum Education. Museum of Modern Art. New York University, New York. 14 Nov. 2013. Lecture.

[4]Blair, Elizabeth. “Interactive Games Make Museums A Place To Play.” NPR. NPR, n.d. Web. 23 Nov. 2013. <http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=99244253&gt;.

[5] Ibid

[6] Ibid

[7]”FAMILY VISITS.” MoMA. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 Nov. 2013. <http://www.moma.org/learn/kids_families/visits#games&gt;.

[8] Falk, John H.. “The Visitor.” Identity and the museum visitor experience. Walnut Creek, Calif.: Left Coast Press, 2009. 67-89. Print.

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