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U. Erb, L.M. de Araujo, A. Königschulte

University of Applied Sciences Bremerhaven (GERMANY)
In this paper we present the project of developing a digital educational game for the German Maritime Museum Bremerhaven (GMMB). The goals of the project are not only to enhance museum visitors’ experiences by making them aware of certain exhibits, stimulating them to explore the environment and offering new information, but also to learn how to integrate games in serious environments beyond the limits of the private sphere.

Many were the challenges during the development phase ranging from integrating a game-terminal within the exhibition, to designing a game flexible enough to provide additional value for visitors with different preconditions and at different phases of their visit.

The game is related to the main exhibit “Hanseatic Cog” and the medieval exhibition about “Hanseatic Times” presented in the GMMB. To improve the educational capabilities of the game and gather individual’s attention, it was designed and built as kiosk resembling a boat. Also, the joysticks are similar to the actual tools used to sail the real medieval cog.

Not only typical problems of serious games had to be solved, i.e. making the play an engaging and educational experience. But also specific demands of the museum had to be taken in to consideration regarding flow and number of visitors and their available time for the visit, which effect interface, content and duration of the game.

In order to increase “fun” during the play, we chose an explorative game type of “learning by acting” (action learning). In the role of a sailor and trader, the player has to apply his acquired knowledge by acting in the game rather than just answering simple quiz questions. However, sometimes quizzes were necessary during certain parts of the play in order to make information explicit and faster to be absorbed.

In several development cycles, game prototypes were tested by school children also inside the museum and optimized according to the evaluation results. The results of the usability tests showed that an educational game for a museum context needs to be highly self-explaining, using clear instructions and clear metaphors.

A main challenge was to avoid just trial-and-error reactions of the players especially if they played the game before learning from the exhibition or if they did not watch or listen to explanations in the game. A solution for this problem is structuring game scenarios strongly according to learning objectives and forcing players to apply their acquired knowledge in a way that there are not only “true” and “false” actions, but actions which let the players succeed faster or slower or never. This strategy is in fact also a strategy of making the game educational and fun at the same time.

Applying interactive multimedia technologies offers additional benefits in presenting and visualizing certain aspects and interrelations of exhibits, e.g. let the player/learner have active virtual experiences and thus make connections with the related museum artefacts. Beyond that, no doubt is left that game-based learning experiences improve learning success. Therefore, also for museum environments, educational game approaches are brought into focus.