Cultural Fiesta Initiatives for Museums

Games, everybody loves them

Families – our starting point

By Elvi

One of the main challenges Cultural Fiesta had to face was making the museums friendlier places to families. Young people, under the age of 35, with children are a big part of the target group of the project. Due to their circumstances they are sometimes left out when institutions want to work towards youngsters. The reason might be the difficulties that creating an initiative that is attractive both for children and adults encompases.

After a lot of reflection and countless brainstormings we came up with a plan: think about something everybody, no matter the age, loves and bring it to the museum. That is when the word GAME came to our minds. We contacted Oana, our good friend and contact in Baia Mare’s Ethnography Museum and explained our idea. Rapidly, she said: “go for it!”

Game-based learning vs. gamification

At first sight it might seem quite easy to just bring games to cultural institutions but we wanted to do it with care and understanding the educational methodology that is behind this initiative. Two concepts came to our mind: game-based learning and gamification. What exactly are we doing?

On the one hand, game-based learning is a methodology in which the educational game is the end. It has value by itself. Games are used to motivate and have learning outcomes. It takes the core educational content and makes it fun. On the other, gamification is the application of game mechanics in a non-game context. For example, giving points or rewards after a task that does not necessarily have to be entertaining or putting a timer to make the activity more exciting.

In order to distinguish between game-based learning and gamification, it is important to consider time, awareness of the participant and the role of joy. In game-based learning, participants must be aware at all times that they are playing. The game is normally quick and dynamic and has a clear starting point and end. Finally, when educators design it, they must take into account that it has to be enjoyable.

In contrast, in gamification, participants might not be 100% aware they are “playing” since the main activity does not necessarily have to be fun. It can be a traditional academic activity that will give some reward to participants when they finish. That is, the fun element can be there, but it is not taking as much into consideration when the activity is planned.

In the context of the Ethnography museum: participants will be aware they are playing. Actually, they will choose if they want to play or not. The games will be dynamic and will have a clear end. Finally, Cultural Fiesta has designed them with the main focus of people having fun while learning in the museum.

It is a clear case of game-based learning being implemented.

The specifics of it

When planning a game-based learning experience, the context in which the games are going to happen is key. They should be adapted to the space, the time you want participants to spend, the ages, the order they will follow and specially the learning outcomes. The more adapted the games are to these elements, the more chances there are of partipants enjoying.

We have designed three separated games, one per main exhibition. Participants do not need to play one to be able to play the other. Families that decide to play all of them will finish in less than 45 minutes and will learn from every corner of the museum. However, the most important aspect is that the games need very little manteinance.

This last aspect was important for us. We wanted to create a meaningful experience but were aware of how much work do the museums workers already have. Virtural tools have given us the possibility to implement a inshightful experience, using very little resources, both budget wise and personal.


What is next?

We have learned a lot from implementing this initiative. Specially about educational methodologies based on games. Besides, our partners in the Ethnography museum have voiced how much they have liked this initiative. Now, we are looking forward to implementing it in other museums.

We are working on a treasure-hunt in the Village Museum, which is really exciting. However, we also need to put a lot of effort in promoting what we have accomplished!

This blog post is part of Cultural Fiesta, a project co-founded by the European Comission. It is part of European Solidarity Corps and Team for Youth.