Thursday, February 15, 2007

Game Friday on the Road: Messing with Metastructure

Remember the road trips where you valiantly combated boredom by collecting license plates from different states? Playing 20 questions? Looking for funny signs and places?

Turns out these games aren't only compelling to people who are approaching hour 4 with a ten year old in the car. Users of Google Earth, Google, and Flickr (among others) are using these applications as virtual game boards for joyrides around the world.

With Google Earth, you can hunt for unidentified satellite photographs, solve mysteries and puzzles involving landmarks, or play war games by capturing cities around the world. With Google or Flickr, you can try to guess the tag associated with a set of images. Flickr content gets pulled into memory games. You can play with content you love (continents, cats) or just cast your rod into the sea of content and see what comes out.

At first glance, these games seem like bizarre time-wasters. Why would you want to use google backwards? What makes hamster photo Sudoku more interesting than the standard version? These games represent the rise of search, tagging, and openness on the web. Web content has become so flexible that what was once a locked, mysterious process (how do I find what I want on the web?) is now something with which we are so comfortable we make games out of it. Museums should drool over this. Imagine if visitors thought your artifacts were so cool that they wanted, independently of any prompting from the museum, to make games out of them. Imagine if the wayfinding was good enough that people created geocaching games based on locations in the museum. Teachers have been doing this with scavenger hunts for years—but those are games made for work, not for pleasure.

Why isn’t there Brooklyn Museum of Art Sudoku? The people who design these games aren’t motivated by the content alone—Google Earth, Google, and Flickr all have at least as much crap content as good stuff—they are motivated by the flexibility of the platforms. Designers realize that if all that information is at their fingertips, they can draw it into their hands and mold it into something else. Right now, most museums keep people at arm’s length from their content. Collection/tagging projects like and the Powerhouse Museum might start to crack the door, but in general, museum content isn’t open to access. You can watch from the window, but you can’t drive.

1 comments, add yours!:

Anne said...

Yes! Guess the google---Very addictive!