In the last decade, also thanks to technology, the way of attracting, engaging and retaining the consumer has radically changed. This also applies to the cultural sector where the use of gamification it is more and more widespread. The many projects managed by T.uo Museum, an international multidisciplinary collective led by game designer Fabio Viola which, active since 2016, designs gamification solutions applied to the promotion of cultural tourism. The collective gathers artists, game designers, developer, sound designer and 3D animators who, working at the intersection between art and video games, propose innovative ways of enjoying and involving culture in which the public is a co-protagonist and an active part of the experience not only during the visit, but also before and after it.
We are used to conceiving the video game as a playful tool for its own sake but, as everyday life also teaches us, there is nothing more effective than playing and having fun to learn and involve. And so it happens that the video game can become a tool for enhancing and promoting cultural heritage.
As we have illustrated in this article, in Italy we have interesting examples of cultural institutions that have chosen the path of innovation: the MANN National Archaeological Museum of Naples, the Marta, National Archaeological Museum of Taranto, the Regio Theater of Parma to name a few, a sign that something is moving. What should be done to accelerate this process towards innovation in culture? What are the main problems and obstacles to this innovation challenge?
We asked the founder of Tuo Museo directly, Fabio Viola pioneer in Italy of gamification applied to culture, one of the fifty leading game designers in the world.
1. “Father and Son 2” has just been released, the sequel to the videogame produced for the National Archaeological Museum of Naples in 2017. After five years, what were the results of the first version of the videogame and what were the impacts on the museum?
Father and Son was the debut project of our collective TuoMuseo back in April 2017. An experiment supported and financed by the National Archaeological Museum of Naples to create for the first time in the world a direct relationship between a museum, archaeological, and the video game language. The goal was to claim the artistic and cultural role of the videogame medium and verify if it could become a tool to reach international audiences and bring them closer to the stories contained in the museum. In these five years of life, the game has exceeded 5 million downloads worldwide and has helped to position the Mann as a place for experimentation and hybridization as well as having directly impacted the increase in visitor flows both in Naples and at the museum. . With the second chapter just released, downloadable for free on the App Store and Google Play, we want to thank our players through a narrative based on the more than 100,000 feedbacks they have sent us.
2. How and when was Your Museum born and what are the projects that made it famous all over the world?
TuoMuseo was founded in 2016 with the aim of creating a dialogue between cultural institutions and the new interactive languages of the 21st century. The idea won the Fondazione Cariplo's Cultural Innovation call, whose funds allowed a heterogeneous team made up of programmers, visual artists, game designers, art historians to start collaborating together. The first project was Father and Son, which immediately obtained a huge media coverage (over 1000 articles all over the world) and the public; that positive legacy allowed us to immediately obtain numerous assignments from large institutions. I think of the Marta of Taranto for which we made Past for Future which won the prize in the digital art category of ArtTribune or the Teatro Regio of Parma which entrusted us with the creation of A Life in Music, the first video game in the world produced by a theater.
3. Technology and Digital are the future of museums and archaeological sites. Involving, entertaining, astonishing become central objectives in the cultural sector also to attract the youngest. How is the Italian museum sector responding to the challenge of innovation?
I fully agree with the word “involvement”, it is central to the challenges of the 21st century both in the public and private spheres. Yet this simple word still generates many fears and stances, as if it were the antithesis of what is serious and serious. In my 20 years as a designer, I have always had the mantra "tell me and I forget, show me and I remember, involve me and I learn". Designing engaging experiences, as well as culturally sought after, is something that goes beyond the perimeters of mere technological innovation and establishes the birthright of creativity and the relationship with the public with respect to the technologies of the moment. In Italy there has been a growing introduction of viewers, immersive experiences, applications, websites, online databases in recent years but there is no overall strategy and the question of why a person should ever adopt that solution offered by the cultural institution when everything is around you have access to much more engaging, experiential and graphically immersive digital interactions?
4. According to data from the Digital Innovation Observatory in Cultural Heritage and Activities of the School of Management of the Politecnico di Milano, museums and theaters have increased digital initiatives in the last two years. However, only 1 in 5 cultural institutions has a strategic plan dedicated to digital. What should be done to accelerate this innovation process?
A great digital literacy plan would be needed with institutions capable of governing innovation processes and becoming themselves actors of creative production and no longer just places of cultural consumption. It is true that there has been an exponential increase in digital initiatives, but they are essentially all outsourced with the risk of leaving no permanent legacy once the public / private collaboration relationship ends according to the specifications. It is essential that the possibility is unlocked for museums to be able to hire CTOs (chief technology officers) internally, people who know and manage technological innovation to transfer it internally to the rest of the staff and plan solutions and processes in line with the mission and vision of the institute.
5. Gamification applied to the tourist-cultural sphere is, as the projects of Your Museum demonstrate, an opportunity to enhance and promote territories. Do you think there is still a long way to go to spread this awareness?
It is essential to understand that today geographic spaces coexist with digital territories. The mayor of a city not only governs his own classic square kilometers but also all the extensions and new perimeters of the city within social media, video games, metaverses. Discovering and expediting a territory means working jointly on the PRE-DURING-POST experience phases but, to date, the 99% of human and economic resources is focused on what happens when a person is physically in a place. But this is still the central moment of an experience in a world in which almost the entire world population is connected, in which 3 billion people discover territories within video games and in which we are approaching the era of the web3 towards the end of the decade with its cargo of metaversic platforms? It is a huge challenge, but we need to reflect on how to involve the visitor before he physically arrives in a place, after he has left that place but also to pay attention and design experiences for those who will never be able to visit that place along traditional highways but yes. will venture through the digital ones.
In this we are objectively behind compared to many other nations that have begun to infrastructure themselves to understand, and overcome, the challenges of the current century.
6. What will be the next trends in the field of innovation applied to the tourism-cultural sector?
There will be an ever greater intersection between digital and physical projects until they are always co-present in any solution. It will not be easy because this requires increasingly interdisciplinary teams able to move between coding, artificial intelligences, strong aesthetics but also a lot but a lot of reappropriation of the senses. Much will move to blockchain and economic models will radically change with the adoption of new “free to play” models already seen in digital worlds for over a decade.
7. What are the future projects of your museum?
In the last two years we have started working on interactive phygital experiences, large installations in museums, open spaces and cultural places in which the public actively participates by altering what is being projected in real time. We think that the public must transform itself from spectator to spectator and we creatives have a strong reflection on the modalities of physical, cognitive and emotional participation. This is what we have experienced in the last year between Alghero and the Reggia di Venaria Reale, obtaining a wide response. At the same time we are working on the curation of a series of projects that push the videogame to be considered as the tenth form of art, think of the PLAY- Videogame Arte e Oltre exhibition in which the ten forms enter into a short circuit and along the 12 exhibition halls it is possible to go from the originals of De Chirico and Kandinsky to the digital art of Tabor Robak up to the great video games such as Final Fantasy or League of Legends.
We thank Fabio Viola for having granted us his precious contribution and we take the opportunity to congratulate him and his team for all the great dissemination work that has been done and that they continue to do in terms of gaming and culture and of course for all projects carried out.
WHO IS FABIO VIOLA
“It is essential to understand that today geographic spaces coexist with digital territories. The mayor of a city not only governs his own classic square kilometers but also all the extensions and new perimeters of the city within social media, video games, metaverses. Discovering and expediting a territory means working equally on the PRE-DURING-POST experience phases ". Fabio Viola.
Fabio Viola is one of the most important and influential contemporary Gamification Designers. Already at the time of university he founded his first start up with some peers known in video game forums and later collaborates with well-known multinationals such as Electronic Arts Mobile. He has worked on the launch of dozens of popular video games such as Fifa, The Sims, SimCity, Harry Potter, The Simpsons, and so on. In 2011, he publishes his first book "Gamification - Videogames in Everyday Life ”and opens the blog Fabio Viola's Blog Gameifications.com, the first in the sector and, in 2017, his second essay The art of involvement.
He currently occupies the role of game designer for the Alghero Foundation where he coordinates the multi-year plan "Alghero city that plays" for a playful infrastructure of the Sardinian city. He is the leading curator for the “PLAY” exhibition, dedicated to the relationship between art and video games, for the Reggia di Venaria Reale, in Turin.
Your Museum is an international collective of artists, game designers, developer, sound designer and 3D animators who works at the intersection of art and video games. Winner of the Cariplo Foundation Cultural Innovation call, she is currently the leader in Europe in the design and implementation of interactive experiences with dozens of active projects for large cultural institutions. For info, contacts and advice write to email@example.com or call 3315789155.