Coverage in Vice’s Motherboard: “How Games Are Changing the Museum Experience”

We’re appreciative of Becky Ferreira‘s recent coverage in Vice’s Motherboard of a variety of efforts around AMNH to explore how games can enhance the visitor experience – from exhibit-based interactives (Flap Like a Pterosaurs), Hall-based games (MicroRangers), to tabletop gaming (Gutsy). I hope coverage like this helps advance the dialogue around the intersection of museums and games-based learning. Check the full piece out here (How Games Are Changing the Museum Experience) or read it in full below.

How Games Are Changing the Museum Experience

Museums have always aimed to engage their visitors with the spectacle of their displays, be they works of art, fossils, or historical artifacts. Increasingly, this has resulted in numerous efforts to integrate an interactive, game-based dimension into the museum experience, as opposed to relying on more passive observation of collections. Using multiple platforms like augmented reality, tabletop games, or digital displays, curators and designers are hoping to immerse people more deeply in their exhibitions, and to push the limits of what it means to take a trip to the museum.

“For a number of years now we’ve been exploring what it might mean for museums to employ games and play as a way to increase visitor motivation,” Barry Joseph, associate director of digital learning at the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH), told me over the phone. “We want to offer something to people that makes them want to leave their home, come to the museum, and experience something and it also gives them an opportunity to not only appreciate, but actually connect with the objects themselves.”

Take, for instance, the mobile game MicroRangers, which debuted at the AMNH last December. Continue reading

Posted in From My Work, Interviews | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Check out this INSANE Hollywood-style MicroRangers Trailer

To support this Sunday’s Game On! MicroRangers Competition, the following “trailer” was created, that will run on and off all day in our Hall of Ocean Life, on the giant screen beneath the whale. I can’t wait to see and hear it large than life – it’s going to be insane!

Posted in From My Work | Tagged , | Leave a comment

NYTimes promotes MicroRangers in “Solving Mysteries at the AMNH, Smartphone in Hand”

Sometimes when it rains it pours. Today I am quoted in the New York Times, in two different pieces, each talking about digital games (both articles previewed online – the print versions come out tomorrow and this weekend).

First, the New York Time’s Sunday magazine features a PHENOMENAL article called The Minecraft Generation, by Clive Thompson (whom I’ve interviewed here). Check it out.

The second article is about our work at the Museum, focusing on both MicroRangers and our related event, Game On!, this Sunday. It’s awesome. I couldn’t be prouder of all who worked on it to get MicroRangers to this place – the dozens of students, the app and game designers, the scientists, the writers, graphic designers, the MicroRanger Guides who run the cart, and more. The article is reposted below (don’t take too long to read it – the squid and the bison are waiting!):

Solving Mysteries at the American Museum of Natural History, Smartphone in Hand


If you visit the American Museum of Natural History on Sunday and see young people fixated on their smartphones, don’t assume that they’ve abandoned science for the joys of social media. These visitors are not absorbed in Angry Birds — though they may well be investigating bobtail squids or runaway bison.

They’ll be playing MicroRangers, a new mobile game that’s the museum’s latest effort to use popular technology to fire youthful enthusiasm about the wild and woolly.

“You’re invited to shrink down to the microscopic level and go inside our permanent exhibits and solve science-based problems,” said Barry Joseph, the museum’s associate director for digital learning, youth initiatives. Each challenge involves a microbiome — the world of microorganisms within an environment — that’s out of whack.

“Sometimes it’s because there’s a dangerous microorganism at play,” said Mr. Joseph, who helped create the game. “And sometimes to resolve the problem, what we need is a microorganism, sometimes something as unexpected as a virus.”

On Sunday the museum will introduce MicroRangers at Game On!, an event that will award prizes, ranging from toys to a museum sleepover, for successful completion of different levels of the game. Staff members will advise players, and a telepresence robot — like a video screen on wheels — will roam the halls, showing teenagers (who were instrumental in MicoRangers’ development) dressed as some of the game’s scientist characters, soliciting visitors’ help.

Intended for children 8 and older, MicroRangers can be played by two to six people using one device. After downloading the free app, they obtain a communicator coin from the museum. When scanned, this disc sets the game’s characters in motion, causing a tiny talking hologram to appear, “like the little Princess Leia in ‘Star Wars,’” Mr. Joseph said.

Players become MicroRangers by helping the scientists resolve one of nine possible MicroCrises. The game, for instance, may send them to the Deep Sea diorama to investigate why the bobtail squid has lost its glow (pollution has interfered with its bioluminescent bacteria) or to the Bison diorama to learn why the animals are bloated. (They’ve escaped their habitat and are eating grass filled with gas-producing microorganisms.)

“The game is taking you into the exhibits, but it’s also taking the exhibits out of the glass,” Mr. Joseph said. “The bison get loose.”

Each MicroCrisis takes 20 to 30 minutes to vanquish. At the advanced level, though, the emergencies become interrelated in an accelerating mass extinction, “and the tone shifts from Pixar to Stephen King,” Mr. Joseph said.

But if you can’t make the Sunday celebration, you can still play any day. The squid and the bison are waiting.

(From 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Central Park West and 79th Street, 212-769-5100,

A version of this article appears in print on April 15, 2016, on page C18 of the New York edition.

Posted in From My Work | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Promotional Coverage for “Game On! MicroRangers Competition” Begins in the New York Observer

This Sunday we will hold a special event to bring people to the Museum to play MicroRangers, called Game ON! MicroRangers Competition. It will be a great opportunity to help spread the word about this new way to engage with the Museum and for us to further explore the potential of using games to support informal science learning.

The New York Observer just posted a lovely plug in their “Here’s What You Must Do in New York This Week” column:

SUNDAY April 17

Can’t get your kids to stop playing with their phones long enough to, say, enjoy the exhibits at a museum? Good news, the American Museum of Natural History has you covered. It’s hosting the Game On! MicroRangers Competition today.  Kids can download the MicroRanger app on their iPhones or Androids. The game challenges kids to explore the museum exhibits and solve nine “MicroCrises.” The whole first floor of the museum will be turned into what the AMNH describes as a “series of animated adventures.” By playing, kids will learn how to identify how microbial life affects all manner of species. Advanced players will even have a chance to combat a “sixth extinction.” That’s a whole lot more than anyone has ever gotten out of Candy Crush. Central Park West at 79th Street, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., free with museum admission


Posted in From My Work | Tagged | Leave a comment

What is, or was, the MWXX Pop-up Museum?

Depending on when you read this, the MWXX (that is, Museums and the Web 2016) Pop-up Museum is no more. It was launched at the 20th MW conference, in L.A., on Thursday, April 7th and will close/ closed on Saturday April 9th. It is a collective love letter/ thank you to two decades of a conference from its participants. It is also a designed experience, a “thing to think with,” about the intersection of games and museums.

Before we get into the details, here’s a 60-second video tour:

Continue reading

Posted in Conferences | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

Presenting Digital Learning Across The Country

The Spring conference season is upon us! Over the next four weeks, Barry and I are gearing up for at least 7 talks and presentations about games and learning in museums, blended learning, augmented reality and more, all based on our work with young people at AMNH. We’ll be touching on MicroRangers, Crime Scene Neanderthal and Dreams of the Haida Child. And the robot… we can’t forget the robot.

First stop, this week in Los Angeles, for Museums and the Web. There, Barry will take part in two session and skip a third (to be explained below):

  1. This Thursday, from 3:30pm – 5:00pm, Barry will work with colleagues from the Field Museum, CalAcademy, and the Blaton Museum to offer the following: “Opening the MWXX Pop-up Museum: Gaming Square Pegs into Dinosaur-shaped.” Inspired by last year’s session at the Games, Learning and Society Conference (here), this session helps attendees explore how both museums and games are constructed experiences and what happens when the two meet. In advance of the session, Barry put out a call for artifacts from the past 19 Museums and the Web conferences. On Thursday, attendees will step into the role of museum curators, exhibit designers and more to build a pop-up museum using these artifacts which will be open throughout the conference. Games will be involved (more on that later). Then MicroRangers will be explored as a case study within the context of museums exploring game play and design as an innovation in visitor engagement.
  2. On Friday, from 9:00am – 9:50am, Barry will join with colleagues from Antenna International and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC to offer For, With and By – Making Museums Awesome for Kids.  They’ll be asking “How do we make encounters at museums, online and via apps that are responsive to kids, placing them at the center of the experience both before, during, and after their visit?” They will explore projects that let children’s voices in at the outset, including the Met’s #metkids and our Crime Scene Neanderthal (our first time presenting on it!), and how this shifts the conversation from kids as the audience of tomorrow to one of critical importance in museum learning today.
  3. On Saturday, from 10:30pm – 12:00pm, Barry regrets (due to his flight schedule) that he will not be able to attend “Closing the MWXX Pop-up Museum” in which his colleagues from Thursday offer MWxx attendees one last chance to visit the Pop-Up Museum, explore it through a series of mobile games that will have been created during the first session, and explore the future of gaming in museums.

Continue reading

Posted in Conferences, From My Work | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

10 minutes on my 15 years designing games in learning settings

Matt Farber and Steve Isaacs recently interviewed me for their podcast on games-based learning. “Our guest introduces us to some of the fundamentals of how games can be used to effectively engage students and drive learning.”

I talk about my history developing games within learning environments, such as recent games like Gutsy and MicroRangers.

Posted in Interviews | Tagged | Leave a comment