Games often get a bad rap in the museum world. Too gimmicky. Too goal-oriented, or, paradoxically, too process-oriented. But recently, I've been exploring the world of casual Flash games on the web, and I've been amazed. There are thousands of game developers out there creating unusual, beautiful, fascinating games that have changed the way I think about museum exhibits and game/play spaces.
So, new tradition. Every Friday I'll offer up a couple of games on a theme for you to explore. All are free, and most take about 5-30 minutes to complete. Today, two games about navigating non-linear narrative spaces, The Telephone and The Museum of Broken Memories. Both of these games are museum-esque. They encourage exploration of spaces, focusing on evoking emotion through rich graphics and sound.
The Telephone presents a very simple collection of spaces, each with its own challenge, strung together by a "magic" telephone that transports you from one space to the next. There is no over-arching story or puzzle (unless you fall into a Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure reverie). I like this as a new way to envision the transition between spaces and experiences--through a device instead of through physical space. Imagine C. S. Lewis's wardrobe parked in the entrance of a museum exhibition, ready and willing to transport you to something wild and unexpected. It's a beautiful quickie. Enjoy.
The Museum of Broken Memories is an extraordinarily beautiful, and disturbing, game. You navigate through a museum-like setting, exploring "artifacts" of a person's emotional life. It is dark and captivating. The Museum of Broken Memories is an outlier in the broader genre of "point and click" Flash games (like Myst) where your goal is unclear, but the compulsion to keep clicking is high. I'm fascinated by the way that good game design encourages me as a user/player to delve deeply into scenes, looking for items to interact with, never sure that I've "seen it all." When the game is easy to use and the puzzles are not frustrating, I find myself doing things I rarely do in museums--taking a closer look, trying it again to see if something changes, wondering what could possibly happen next. This one is longer, and requires download to your computer.
My game source is Casual Gameplay, where you can also find reviews and hints on these and other games. If you have other sources to recommend, I'd love to hear about them. And where does the Telephone take you?