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Engaging Museum Audiences with Achievements

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August 12, 2012 by mtteaton

A little while ago, I wrote a post focusing on using video games to promote museum learning.  In this post, I would like to highlight some thoughts I have about using a popular aspect of video games within a museum setting.

If you have played a video game within the past few years, you have undoubtedly encountered an achievement system.  For those unfamiliar with this sort of thing, achievements are awards given for completing certain tasks within a game.  For some players, this sort of thing is not a big deal, but others will play a game over and over to accomplish every achievement that the game offers.  These seem to be especially popular in games with multiplayer capabilities such as the Call of Duty and Halo games.  These sorts of achievements are often just a simple message that appears in the upper right corner of the screen,  but in other games, these can also be awards.  The makers of Team Fortress 2 have created an elaborate system of hats that players can unlock through crafting, random drops, and achievements.  For more information on this, be sure to check out this wiki page.

What I find important about these sorts of systems is that they get many players to come back to a game again and again.  In museums, special temporary exhibits or events will often inspire locals to visit their museums more than once in a year, but permanent galleries do not always inspire repeat visitors.  To get visitors coming back for permanent exhibits over and over, museums could learn a thing or two from video game achievements.  Creating some sort of reward system or interactive game with achievements for visitors to unlock could likely inspire repeat visitation.  This is not exactly something new, some museums are already doing this with 4Square and SCVNGR, but low tech scavenger hunts and workbooks could inspire the same sort of action as well, if care and thought is taken to make these educational, fun, and interactive.

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