In Part 3, I started a plan for the gameplay for Art Summer, a hypothetical summer game for a museum. In this final part, I’m going to address some of the other issues involved in the running of the game.
It should go without saying, but the game needs to be fun. Not “fun,” that horrible sanitized, institutionally approved merriment based on twelve lawyer-approved puns that were old in the 1500s. Actual fun.
Be genuine, but positive, in operating the game. Be playful in developing quests. It’s okay to have some moments of geekiness, which is really just a high level of interest in something that’s worth being interested in. But spread the geekiness around: Explore the way you want visitors to.
How exactly do you track points and badges? Ann Arbor District Library’s game, on which this is based, did it online, developing a custom Drupal module for it. Drupal is an open-source content management system that is feasible–not necessarily easy, but feasible–to customize. It requires a fair amount of knowledge to pull off a project like this, but it’s an attainable level of knowledge.
I don’t know that it’s absolutely necessary necessary for prizes, but I’d recommend it if possible, for a few reasons. First, rewards, even small ones, motivate people. Second, it’s an opportunity for branding: any water bottle, T-shirt, pencil set, or whatever that you offer can and should have the museum’s logo on it.
Prizes don’t need to be big or expensive. Levels of prizes–a lot of basic prizes with a few bigger ones that require more participation–are a good idea, but even the bigger ones don’t need to be big. Instead, combine small prizes into packages with a clever or epic name.
That’s what this would be, and I think that’s a good thing. Like all experiments, some parts might not work, and that’s not something to be terrified of. Instead, it’s something to learn from and correct.
And it also has a dividend. It’s an experiment that gives an opportunity to try things out, and to learn about and meet the museum’s audience–and hopefully a new audience.