I have always loved museums.
As a child, I was fortunate enough to live in close proximity to New York City, and its plethora of excellent museums captured my imagination from an early age. As a teenager, the only part of The Catcher in the Rye that appealed to me was Holden Caulfield’s love for the Museum of Natural History. And yet, as I made my way through RISD’s Illustration department, the thought of designing for museums and exhibits never occurred to me. By that time, video games had become my greatest passion, and I wanted to design characters and UI for games.
At BPI, I found that these two passions go hand in hand by necessity. I quickly realized that the games and interactives found in museums and other exhibits are a unique art form, as they bring the world of video games together with exhibit design; with a specific space designed for that game. They are able to engage the senses in new ways, and create an experience not limited to a television screen and a controller in the hand. And yet, I feel that many such “museum games” don’t live up to their potential.
However, just as it has made me understand the huge potential for these games, witnessing the elaborate process of designing museum games has also made me understand why so many of them are flawed. The sheer number of skills (coding, animation, graphic design, video editing, writing, acting, hardware, exhibit design) and the amount of effort that goes into one such game is unbelievable. With so many creative and technical professionals working on a tight timeframe and with client demands, it’s understandable how these games often struggle to be innovative.
Ultimately, museum games and video games operate in the same world, and the same principles of design apply to both. Game designers must continually develop innovative ideas to make games unique and exciting. Gameplay must be intrinsically tied to content, for the sake of learning as well as enjoyment. UI design must be clear and self-explanatory so that players can immediately dive in without confusion, and graphics must be visually rich, to draw in players and to make the game more exciting. BPI is always working on creating new and exciting museum games that will hopefully be memorable, educational and fun, and I am excited to contribute my skills as an artist, along with my passion for good games.
-Michael Hays, Graphic Designer