Cultural industries have undergone deep changes in the past decade. Fast technological advances and a new generation of consumers have jostled the way cultural content is created, shared, and consumed. We have entered an “experience economy”. This means customer experience management has become a strong competitive factor.
In this fast-moving environment, many museums are reinventing the way they attract and interact with their visitors. More and more museums are resorting to gamification to create more immersive and engaging visitor experiences.
In this article on gamification examples, we will cover innovative initiatives of museums around the world to engage visitors via gamification and behavioural design.
Taking interactivity to the next level
The most memorable visitor experiences are usually ones that are interactive. The Swiss Science Center “Technorama” (Winterthur, Switzerland) has taken interactivity to a whole new level: it lets visitors interact directly with natural phenomena via over 500 hundred “experimental stations”. On these stations, visitors can touch, feel and recreate a variety of surprising natural phenomena. They have the freedom to try things out and see the direct, physical results of their actions. These experimentations empower learning by leveraging the motivational powers of creativity and curiosity.
Another point to mention is the presence of friendly staff to help visitors interact with the various stations. This helps visitors understand the phenomena they are experiencing. Most importantly, it creates positive social interactions throughout the visitor experience! Most people consider museum-going as a social experience. It is thus essential to help visitors have meaningful interactions with other visitors or with museum staff.
Amusement park museums
Some museums have decided to create visitor experiences that resemble those of amusement parks. This is the case of Petrosains (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia) among others. In such museums, narrative and sensational aspects are the cornerstones of the visitor experience. In Petrosains, visitors can go on scenic rides, narrating the history of Malaysia and its evolution. They can explore a life-size recreation of an offshore platform, meet dinosaurs… In such museums, interactive exhibitions are usually a key feature of the visitor experience as well.
Some gamification examples are created via partnerships between museums and actors of the entertainment industry.
In 2012, the Louvre (Paris, France) partnered with Nintendo to create a 3DS audio guide game that let anyone visit the Louvre from anywhere. The guide featured over 700 pieces of the Louvre’s collection, with detailed audio information and 3D imagery. This made the Louvre’s famous collection accessible to anyone in the world!
Visitors could also use the game to visit the Louvre in person, as 3DS consoles replaced the Louvre’s audio guides until 2017. However, it did not provide many more features than an integrated map and audio guide.
Augmented Reality visits
Museums are harnessing the powers of recent technological developments to enrich their visitor experience. More and more museums have started developing Augmented Reality (AR) apps for their visitors. Here are two examples of unique value created by AR in museums:
- The Art and History museum of Geneva (Switzerland) created an app that allowed visitors to visualise 3D recreations of broken statues. This helps visitors envision the collection pieces in their full glory.
- In the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (Washington, United States), an AR app helps visitors empathise with Shoah victims. By pointing their phone to historical pictures, visitors can see the names of people and read their story. This helps visitors connect with victims as individuals rather than numbers, which tackles the cognitive bias of “compassion fade”. (The predisposition to behave more compassionately towards a small number of identifiable victims than to a large number of anonymous ones.)
Virtual recreations of world wonders
The Dunhuang Mogao caves are a UNESCO World Heritage endangered by growing tourism. To protect them, the Dunhuang Research Academy has been taking detailed 3D scans and pictures. The City University of Hong Kong then developed a Virtual Reality (VR) recreation of one of the caves, down to its smallest details. This allows visitors to visit the caves virtually while guaranteeing their preservation. Moreover, this virtual recreation allows colour enhancements, as well as the incorporation of additional elements: animated dancers, 3D representations of music instruments. The VR experience may even be more engaging than the real thing!
In an AR version of this recreation, the 3D scan is projected on the walls of a black booth, at the dimensions of the cave. Visitors then explore the cave bit by bit through a tablet screen. This recreates the immersive experience of being in the dark cave, exploring its books and crannies with a flashlight.
Time travelling through story-telling and role-playing
Most of the gamification examples we have tackled so far rely on the use of advanced technology. However, engaging experiences can also be created without technology.
Jamtli (Östersund, Sweden) is an open-air museum that lets visitors discover folkloric Swedish history through story-telling and role-playing. The museum is a functional village in which different areas represent different time periods. Visitors can thus visit different time periods of rural Sweden, and meet actors who tell them tales of that era. It is thus a very human experience.
The visitor experience is made particularly interactive through role-playing: visitors are given a Jamtli time-travelling passport. In order to enter a lottery, they need to collect stamps from 5 time periods. To get the stamps, visitors must take part in activities and reenact historic events. This passport is a great souvenir for visitors to take home! There is much more to do in Jamtli: take pictures in traditional clothing, change money for the local “Jamtli-krona” to get preferential rates in all Jamtli business, etc.
Integrated adventure games and escape games
A few museums are following the growing trend of escape games and propose their own adventure/escape games. These usually revolve around a narrative integrated to the museum’s theme. Here are 2 of these gamification examples:
- In summer 2019, the Louvre (Paris, France) proposed the free outdoor adventure game “Mysteries at the Tuileries”. In small teams, visitors could explore around the museum’s scenic garden and try to unveil its secrets. Various levels of difficulty allowed visitors of all ages to enjoy and solve enigmas in their search for a mysterious treasure.
- Since 2018, the Diefenbunker (Ottawa, Canada) offers an escape game adventure to its visitors. The twist? The escape game does not take place in a single room, but in the entire museum! This makes the Diefenbunker the biggest escape game in the world. During their tour of the museum, visitors learn that a nuclear threat has been detected and that they have 60 minutes to save the world and escape the facility. Video here: https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=545415892483985
Both of these games allow visitors to play along a narrative connected to the museum, while solving mysteries. This is a great way of making the visitor experience feel more participative. It lets visitors become actors of their visit.
Revival of an artist
The Van Gogh Museum (Amsterdam, Netherlands) created an exhibition called “Meet Vincent Van Gogh”. In this exhibition, visitors are guided through Vincent’s life and work by… none else than Vincent himself! The visitor experience follows an array of audio recordings of Van Gogh’s writings, read by a voice actor. This makes for a very personal connection between visitors and the artist. The story-telling is also visuals: 3D recreations of his paintings with which visitors can interact, animated paintings, etc. Visitors are completely immersed in Vincent’s world, through his words, his eyes… and his emotions.
Online educational games
Gamification examples are not always found inside the museums. On its website, the National Museum of Scotland (Edinburgh, Scotland) offers dozens of educational mini-games that let users learn about ancient Egypt, the Picts or microbiology. Each game can be played in a few minutes and lets players explore and use skills or strategy to accomplish their quest. Educational facts are an integral part of the games’ narrative and mechanics. This online format allows visitors to engage with the museum before or after their visit. Some games are also playable inside the museum.
You can find their 7 mini-games on ancient Egypt here: https://www.nms.ac.uk/explore-our-collections/games/discover-ancient-egypt/
Letting visitors leave a digital footprint
As has been evoked earlier, museums are considered by many as a social experience. So far, we have seen gamification examples that help museums create meaningful social contact between visitors and museum staff. What about interactions between the visitors themselves?
Samsung D’light (Seoul, South Korea) is an exhibition that lets the brand showcase its “technology of the future” to visitors. The exhibition lets visitors interact with surprising technology during their visit. In addition, Samsung D’light lets visitors take a personality test throughout their visit. This test is taken in several booths with various themes (emotion, sense…). Each booth proposes a short interaction with the visitor, which usually results in a creative/funny photo. This image can be kept by visitors and shared on social media, but it is also directly displayed in the exhibition. Seeing the pictures of other visitors makes the visitor experience feel more collective. It also creates social proof and encourages visitors to interact with the various booths so they, too, can get cool/funny pictures of themselves.
As you can see by these gamification examples, many museums have started to use gamification to create engaging visitor experiences. However, it is still a field of vastly underexploited potential. Indeed, most museums still tackle the visitor experience as a one-time visit: it stops as soon as visitors walk out the door. The real challenge for creating engaging visitor experiences is to make that experience last longer. Visitors should feel engaged before they even set foot in a museum, and their journey should continue long after they have left. In fact, the post-visit experience is essential to creating visitor loyalty and encouraging further visits.
Creating a successful gamified experience is no small task. In fact, many museums that try to implement gamification themselves find out that designing a truly engaging and lasting experience is hard. It often requires a LOT of trial and error! Luckily, a deep understanding of Octalysis behavioural science design can save you from these errors.
At the Octalysis Group, we apply our tried and tested 5 Step Gamification Implementation process. This a process developed from years of experience in creating gamified experiences with high ROIs for organisations around the world. It guarantees a deep understanding of the stakes of the businesses we help and the motivations of their audiences. These are the key to creating engaging gamified experiences.
If you want to learn more about creating long-term engagement, discover 5 Secret Ingredients for Audience Engagement in Museums.
If you would want more insight into how gamification can shape the future of visitor experience in museums, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org