Game Mechanics and the Museum: Designing simple gameplay around complex content
David Schaller, eduweb, USA
Since the cabinets of curiosity of yore, museums have collected widely and deeply, building collections that they now draw upon to interpret the diversity of the natural world and the heights of human achievement and expression. A game, in contrast, maintains a singular focus on a system of rules that ties together game objects and player actions. How, then, can a game maintain that strict focus while doing justice to the rich, heterogenous collections and content of a museum? This paper explores the nature of this challenge and examines how a handful of museum games respond to it, using either extrinsic or intrinsic gameplay. Extrinsic games adopt existing game mechanics as generic containers for content. Intrinsic games devise novel gameplay that integrates content into the game choices and consequences. Museum game developers must understand the benefits and risks of these contrasting approaches, as well as the implications for development effort, playtesting, and learning outcomes, so they can make the best design choices for their project.