Gaming From Another Angle: Photo Scavenger Hunts

A bit diagonal from my series on alternate reality games, but this is something I came across today that I thought worthy of mention.

One of My Place of Work’s major conferences* is coming up, and one of the many preparations includes this: A photo scavenger hunt.

This one is pretty simple: The administrator of the game (Association Innovatrix** Jenny Levine, I believe) is setting a daily challenge to take a photo of something. Today’s, for example, is a cowboy (appropriate since the meeting is in Dallas). People can share their photos on Facebook, Flickr, and Twitter to win a virtual ribbon, and there is a dedicated tag to further enhance findability.

How can a museum or other cultural institution adapt this idea for themselves? Simply replicating it is a start, although perhaps not a hugely inspiring one.

But there are plenty of ways to customize it. Assigning players to capture photos relevant to your holdings or programs is an obvious one. This could be directly relevant–take a photo within an exhibit, or a photo of something that might be appropriate, for example. Or it could be more oblique: A zoo might ask for a photo of an appropriate–or perhaps, fantastical–habitat for one of its animals, or a library might ask for an unusual representative of a classic book. (There are plenty of impressive examples of books reimagined as cakes out there.)

Why should people take part? Their sense of creativity, and the shareability of the results, can both help to motivate participation, particularly if a community arises to recognize and encourage the best examples. Gamification of the scavenger hunt can also encourage participation, whether with tangible rewards or simply recognition.

Why should a museum bother? It’s a low-labor way to encourage public engagement. Every time a photo gets shared, it’s a way to publicize the organization. And it’s simply a fun program that falls within the museum’s mission.

It’s probably not earth-shaking for an organization, but I think it could be a worthwhile contribution to its marketing and programming efforts.

* Actually a 12,000-attendee business meeting, and please don’t call it a conference. Unless you’re doing so intentionally for your own amusement, in which case, well done.

** Not her real title. I’d take it, though, if that were a viable option.

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