Walking into a museum, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. Take the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, for example. Over two million pieces of work reside inside, divided among nearly 20 departments. So, where do you start? How do you begin to digest the Greek and Roman art, let alone shift to the arts of Africa, Oceania and the Americas? Well, why not turn your adventure into a game? And not just any game, but a murder mystery.
The Met has created the first mobile detective game called “Murder at the Met: An American Art Mystery” in collaboration with Cambridge-based Green Door Labs. Founded by SCVNGR’s former Director of the Museums Division Kellian Adams, Green Door Labs focuses on creative storytelling, mobile games and education, hoping to bring artwork, science and history to life.
Adams understands how daunting walking into a museum can be. “But what if you went in with a different framework?” she asks. Meaning, what if, at the end, you had educational goals? Instead of standing there trying to decipher the arts’ meaning, you’re immersed in a game where you need to deduce who killed Madame X, with what weapon and in which period room. No longer are you disengaged with what’s in front of you, because what’s in front of you holds the clues that can help you solve the mystery.
The Met worked with Green Door Labs on every step of the project, turning the visions of the museum’s art and education teams into a tangible product. The app launched in April, and the Met’s reporter Katherine Abbey says, “In their finest nineteenth-century costumes, and equipped with detective gear, teens came out in droves to check alibis and crack the case.”
The murder mystery hasn’t been the only project for Green Door Labs, however. They’ve also created an educational game that’s available for Girl Scouts and alumni to play until tomorrow, called Agents of Change. Set in the distant future, the game portrays a society with no culture, no creativity and most certainly no cookies. The Girl Scouts are then tasked with becoming anthropologists, traveling through time to the distant past of 21st-century Washington D.C., to collect ancient relics and vote on objects to bring back to the future.
Through the game, players are brought to the capital’s National Archives, the Library of Congress and the Smithsonian Museums. And girls not onsite in Washington D.C. can still play by sharing research about the items they collected and discussing their relevance in casting their votes.
When starting a new project, Adams says she always asks, “What do we want people to walk away with?” With Agents of Change, she wanted the girls to understand why museums matter and why people collect, among other aspects of the process.
To Adams, it’s all about connecting to spaces. “Gamification doesn’t mean putting math equations into a video game format,” Adams says. “I’m more interested in bringing games into real life. How do we get people to spaces, and how do we get people to connect with spaces?”
Expect Green Door Labs to continue working with other nonprofits and museums. “We want to be a leader in this field of education, gaming and space,” Adams admits. And with two successful launches already under their belt, my guess is they will be.