I recently read Museums at Play: Games, Interaction, and Learning edited by Katy Beale over my Spring Break travels to NYC. The book is incredibly straightforward with simple 5-7 page chapters, each illustrating an example of an interactive experience (some low-tech & some very hi-tech). Because this is what I study – visitor engagement with collections – in traditional or digital spaces – I was very aware of several of these examples, but a few were new and very surprising.
Two (of the many) that struck my fancy:
- Art Heist at the New Art Gallery Walsall
- Playing With Light – An Interactive Science Exhibition [SciTech Australia]
Take away points from the book:
- Keep designs simple – the more complexity that’s added to a game, the more likely it will only work for subset of your audience, will be too time consuming, or will be confusing to pick up. Simple is better.
- Test prototypes on your audience several times – almost every chapter discussed how testing the product on families, kids, parents, or students revealed problems, challenges, and outcomes that were unexpected and required going back to the design boards – all of which ended up being instrumental to the success of the product.
- Never design for users coming up with “right answers” – the exhibits that made the interaction a contemplative experience were the most successful. They allowed different people to build off the ideas of others, which led to longer, more rewarding museum visit experiences. One chapter discussed the use of a large, unstructured space devoted to white legos, where users spent exorbitant amounts of time playing, redesigning, and engaging socially with others.