Video Games in Art Museums? (Part 2)

Video games are appealing to the new generations, with consumers growing constantly. Nowadays, museums try to reinvent themselves, but might videogames be a solution to it? Video games can be forms of art, but museums can tap into the potential of video games to reach out to new audiences, to offer a different experience and interactions for visitors, or to diversify their audiences and artists. But, how to do it, where to start it, what other Museums did? 

In a series of events and workshops, museum experts, games studios and artists were invited to share their knowledge and experiences. The events were organized by We Are Museums In Cooperation with the Smithsonian presented by the Villa Albertine and the The Cultural Services of the French Embassy In the U S .

Among the experts invited were representatives of Centre Pompidou,  Smithsonian American Art Museum, Game in Society, V&A Museum, Playmatics, George Eastman Museum, Aboriginal Territories in Cyberspace, Ubisoft.  The guests discussed openly and frankly their challenges and valuable lessons learned, highlighting the opportunities in the space. The events showcased opportunities with both well-rounded budget and enough time to plan, but also low-cost projects; while a special session was dedicated to efforts to open up to diverse communities.

The first session had guests from Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, Centre Pompidou and Games in Society that presented and debated what are the challenges and opportunities when museums want to create video games themselves to expand exhibition, as a way to interact, to think of new ways of education, and obviously in a world with more and more games, how can your games stand out. Read more about #1 Session on Techvangart:

Session #2: When Cultural Institutions Become Videogame Producers

The second session of our program dived into groundbreaking examples of museums nailing videogame production to explore new ways of engaging with audiences and exploring interactions.

Host of event was: Kristian Volsing, Project Curator, V&A Museum of Childhood (UK)
Speakers: Nick Fortugno, Playmatics (USA) and Kate Meyers Emery-Manager of Digital Engagement, George Eastman Museum (USA)

Kristian Volsing, Project Curator, V&A Museum of Childhood:
V&A Museum already in 2018 had an exhibition that provided insight into the design process behind a selection of groundbreaking contemporary videogames.
Videogames: Design/Play/Disrupt’ included concept art and prototypes featured alongside large-scale immersive installations and interactives.

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This was the first time a major national institution really exhibited in the center the inspiration and processes that make up today’s production in video-games from blockbuster studios to indie developers. For more insight please visit the exhibition page:
Moreover, in order to attract young audiences, the Young V & A center it will open in the summer of 2023, aimed to attract young audiences to art, design, performances, art. And also it includes a program to introduce the audience to the game design process from mechanics to aesthetics, to narratives.

Nick Fortugno, Playmatics (United States)
Fortugno is CCO of Playmatics LLC, a New York City-based game development studio focusing on games.
He was involved in the design of numerous non-digital projects, including board games, collectible card games, large-scale social games, and live-action role-playing games
The studio worked with museums having experience on how games can intersect with museum content.
As a case-study, Fortugo analyzed Microrangers built for the American Museum of Natural History in 2015, and it is an AR experience that was built for museums.

Lessons learned:

Deep partnership is needed. Any game that is built for an institution is a collaboration between many factions, and game developers are bringing expertise that should supplement the expertise from the Museum.
Design Goal: It is recommended to establish them clearly upfront. A lot of time was spent in the beginning figuring out what goals the project should have, and what a game should do for a museum. For ex: can a ame move people to less exhibited areas?
Project summary: an AR game that guided users through the museum to solve crises. Users could also zoom into micro-worlds to see how these are affected. Each crisis in a hall was a mini AR-game.
Working with science students that worked as researchers, writers, etc was a plus.

Measure objective results. The game was up for about 2 years:
100% of visitors reported that they learned new scientific knowledge,
52% reported that at home they further researched the topic
93% reported that they would recommend it to friends
92% thought museums should offer more such experiences.

Kate Meyers Emery, Manager of Digital Engagement, George Eastman Museum (United States)

A totally low budget approach was taken by Kate Meyers when creating a film called Film Quest. It was created in 3 days, with under 100$, and gave an insight into the process.
Inspired by the dramatic true story featured in the exhibition Stories of Indian Cinema: Abandoned & Rescued at the George Eastman Museum, Film Quest gives users the opportunity to put themselves in a museum archivist’s shoes and search for films to save.
Users can earn points by collecting film reels and posters—deciding on the fly which should be kept and which must be left behind.

Process of making a Video Game.
Establish Learning Goals. If you are building a game, consider what users will get out of it and make sure it will add something to the exhibit.
These learning goals: players get tna appreciation of the circumstances under with these were collected. But also understand decisions that were made during the ‘rescue’ process – what was chosen, and how much was collected.
Balance of fun and education – is important.
Basic Game decisions that were made in the beginning: type of game? How will players access it? What content/ asset do you have or need? Who can help? What is timeline and budgets
Wireframe and Storyboard for the concept: How is this going to look like? How many different elements and pages do we need? How to give a score and how to end it?
Build the Concept: what character do you need and how does it look? What sounds? Can it build reuse elements?
Most complicated element was to build the character. The majority of other elements could be reused with just recoloring it.
Create the Game. ‘Construct 3’ platform was used for it, which is very easy to use and export.
It is helpful to have gaming experience, and to understand SQL queries.

Also, Kate Meyers highlighted that people not just play the game and leave the website, but, engage more, look at content, having the game might be just the door to get somebody in, who wouldn’t normally go to a museum.

SESSION #3: Videogames – A Door to New and Diverse Audiences

Today, videogames are understood as the new social spaces where cultural practice is being re-imagined, with new tools, technologies and social habits emerging daily.
They are fabulous spaces where one can reach out to new and diverse audiences and start building strong relationships with each other.
And because they are new spaces to explore, they can also be places to discuss inclusivity, social and cultural diversity or other topics related to today’s society and existing bias in the video game industry. It’s time for museums to find these new audiences and make an impact through the use of videogames.

Host: Tanya DePass, I Need Diverse Games (USA)
Speakers:Skawennati, Co-Director, Aboriginal Territories in Cyberspace, AbTec (USA) and Deborah Papiernik, SVP, New Business & Strategic Alliances, Ubisoft.

Tanya DePass, – I Need Diverse Games (United States)
Is a non-profit having its mission to develop a diverse community of Gamers, and also to support game developers from marginalised communities.


She has written articles on topics of diversity, feminism, and race, for publications including Polygon and Vice, and provides diversity consultation services to game development studios and organizations.
She is the programming & diversity coordinator for OrcaCon and GaymerX. Museum related works included collaboration with V&A Museum at the exhibition Videogames: Design/Play/Disrupt and also with Smithsonian American Art Museum, where she held keynote speech, as part of the SAAM Arcade event in 2019

Skawennati, Co-Director, Aboriginal Territories in Cyberspace, AbTec (United States)

Skawennati makes art that addresses history, the future, and change from her perspective as an urban Kanien’kehá:ka (Mohawk) woman and as a cyberpunk avatar.
She is best known for her machinimas—movies made in virtual environments—but also produces still images, textiles and sculpture. (creator page)

Initiative for Indigeneous Futures is a partnership for institutions across Canada

Skawennati considers that too many times, indigenous people and culture are seen in the past. Through her artworks, she wanted to make it clear that Future is also part of Indigeneous People. Many of her works that she presented, have this core belief. And it is hard not too notice that many brave heroines from the movies are women!

Timetraveller is a story about a young mohawk man who uses his glasses to go into a virtual world to discover his history. But, also he falls in love with a mohawk woman, and she moves to the future. “I wanted to make the statement that indigenous people are in the future and we can choose the future” says Skawennati
Viewers can join him and observe famous historical events and interact with the people who made them happen!

She Falls for Ages’ is another machinima which This sci-fi retelling of the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) creation story reimagines Sky World as a futuristic, utopic space and Sky Woman as a brave astronaut and world-builder. It begins on an ancient, alien world whose culture centres on the care and reverence for the beautiful, energy-producing Celestial Tree (video presentation)

By doing The Peacemaker Returns, Skawennati took an old ancient story of indigenous culture and brought it into the future. The Peacemaker Returns takes place in the far future, when the entire Earth has become a confederation of countries who truly recognize that we share one planet; Now Earth has a new challenge, and Iotetshèn:’en, a young Mohawk woman, is traveling through space along with four other diplomats to a momentous rendezvous.

Skawennati Started a Gallery in Second Life, where artist can showcase their work.


An undeniable successful project was presented by Deborah Papiernik, SVP, New Business & Strategic Alliances, Ubisoft – that brought a lot of award to the creators.

Deborah Papiernik, SVP, New Business & Strategic Alliances, Ubisoft – An appreciated deal-maker and inspiring leader, she develops innovative partnerships and new forms of entertainment in a broad range of industries: Live Entertainment, Location-Based VR, Music, Health, Mobility, Culture (museums, immersive exhibitions, documentaries, etc.).,c

Deborah Papiernik talked about Lady Sapiens, an incredible scientific investigation from across the globe, that helps to put together pieces from the untold story of prehistoric women. 

When analysing prehistoric images about women, usually they are portrait as nurturer, harvester, submissive woman. Recent studies show that women was much more than that, and actually she worked alongside man for the community.  Aided by immersive technologies, archeologists are shaking up the old clichés.

Lady Sapiens takes users back 30,000 years to discover her true face: artist, huntress, healer, clan leader… 

Alongside the documentary, a 12 minutes Virtual Reality experience was created to put the viewer into the shoes of Lady Sapiens. For the VR experience they worked with an external author and an external distributor.  The VR experience is available at the Natural Science Museum in Paris. Also partnerships was concluded with the Paleosite de saint Cezanne https://paleosite.fr/  the South-West of France. Welcome to the Paleolithic Age!

The global project LADY SAPIENS is the result of a unique partnership between a producer, Little Big Story, a broadcaster, France Télévisions, and a video game publisher: Ubisoft. For the documentary, the teams filmed inside the game Far Cry Primal. Far Cry TM & ©Ubisoft Entertainment. all rights reserved. This game was designed with the advice of scientists and historians, including Jacques Malaterre, co-author of the film. Director of movie: Camille Duvelleroy. The VR experience is a co-production between Little Big Story, Little Big Story Lab, Ubisoft and France Télévisions using the game’s assets. The Far Cry license is one of the most successful video games, selling more than 38 million units worldwide (Ubisoft data). Line producer: Lucid Realities and Distributor: Lucid Realities