Game-Based Digital Layer for Increased Museum Engagement

Project Description

The combined hardships of economic downturn and a target audience that is increasingly defined by their affinity for active participation in their surroundings have left many nonprofit museums struggling to remain relevant in the 21st Century. We have partnered with Discovery Place, a hands-on science museum in Charlotte, North Carolina in order to create an easy-to-integrate software solution to help them better engage their audience. Our project is the creation of a three-part digital layer to increase museum engagement for all visitors, but particularly those considered digital natives. We have created two systems to be implemented in the museum, one to appeal to traditional visitors and one to better engage large groups of students.

Project Details

  • Discovery Detectives - a mystery game designed to encourage full exploration of the museum’s physical exhibits through an engaging kiosk-based game. Given a clever codename, players hunt down the evil Baron von Larceny (or one of his henchmen), who is attempting to steal some crucial element of science. After receiving eyewitness testimony, the player must correctly deduce where von Larceny was last seen and answer a question based on important facts found in exhibits that will help stop him.
  • Scavenger Hunt Creation System (SHCS) - designed specifically for large, teacher-led groups, such as those on a school field trip. Teachers and leaders of large groups wanted worksheets that they could use to both tie the lessons of the Museum into the curriculum and keep students on task. This was difficult for the Museum to generate, especially across grade levels. SHCS allows teachers to create worksheets and quizzes for which all answers can be fonud in exhibits as well as add new questions.
  • Meta Mini Games To tie the two separate platforms together, a meta-game platform featuring multiple minigames was accessible by players online. The core ideas of this portion of our digital layer are to bring the museum experience home for players and to tie at home experience in with their museum visit. To achieve this, the mini-games and other content available in this platform were “unlockable” through points earned in both Discovery Detectives and the Scavenger Hunts created with the SHCS. Unlocked content will serve as a sort of playable scrapbook documenting the user’s museum trip while providing further play experiences.


Doran, K., Boyce, A., Hicks, A., Payton, J., & Barnes, T. (2012, June). Creation of a game-based digital layer for increased museum engagement among digital natives. In 2012 Second International Workshop on Games and Software Engineering: Realizing User Engagement with Game Engineering Techniques (GAS) (pp. 31-34). IEEE.