Creating engaging exhibition games

Sophie Sage, 15.05.2018
Case study from the V&A Museum of Childhood
The V&A Museum of Childhood in east London holds the UK’s national childhood collections and is the largest institution of its kind in the world. We aim to explore the material culture of childhood through art, design and performance.

As part of our temporary exhibition, Game Plan: Board Games Rediscovered (8 October 2016 – 23 April 2017), which looked at the history of board games, we developed two distinct interactive games.

This exhibition was the perfect opportunity to get creative with our interpretation, especially as the target audience for Game Plan was families.

The first game allowed visitors to “play” the exhibition. We installed spinners and prompts to help people move along, and installed numbers on panels and cases to act as the board.

During the development of the exhibition, it was challenging to find a balance between giving visitors a trail-like experience, with a pre-determined route, and providing a genuine game of chance.

We worked with game designers to support the project. But this led to ideas that were too complicated and would require much more time and money than we had available. The result was that only one third of visitors interacted with the game, and even fewer completed it.

The second game we created was a very simple quiz. We asked visitors about their “game face” – were they a sore loser, a gloating winner, or a goody two-shoes?

We provided six different personas that people could be, and asked visitors to answer questions that led them to a specific result.

This simple interactive was developed in-house, with support from the exhibition designers, and we found that three out of four visitors completed the quiz.

I would advise museums that are thinking about developing non-digital games to build in time for play testing. This is vital – the more you test the better the product will be.

Test with colleagues, with family members and with the audience if you can.
I would also try to keep the games as simple as possible, especially if you are developing anything for a family audience.

Sophie Sage is the exhibitions manager at the V&A Museum of Childhood