In March of 2017, the CEO and Vice-President of Exhibits at The Strong National Museum of Play and their Scholar-in-Residence, a Professor from RIT’s School of Interactive Games and Media and it’s MAGIC Center, decided to work with RIT students to prototype a collection of emulations of historic “Dexterity Games/Puzzles” from the museum's collections as an act of conservation, exhibition and outreach. The museum likes to look at its holdings as playable artifacts, with the majority accessible to the public at large and/or scholars in the field. That said, the over 100 of these types of games in their collections are too delicate to be made widely available to the visiting public.
That initial exercise in prototyping would lead the museum and university teams to go through numerous iterations of the project and eventualy bring a local educational game studio, Second Avenue Learning, Inc, into the parnership to produce a commercially distributable product. The final product is The Original Mobile Games on iOS and Android devices and the Nintendo Switch. It contains playable emulations and digital images of the original games in the collections. It also includes historical mini-essays on each game.
Often thought of as just “ball in maze” games, there were actually a wide range of types of playstyles incorporated in this genre. While they are an important pieces of games history, their range and impact is little known to either scholars in the field or the general public. The game that defined the genre, and "went viral," was Pigs in Clover and its popularity and a "Senatorial tournament," landed it in the popular press and political cartoons of the day. These types of games were themed around and/or commented on the events of their times; the Boer War, the debut of the Queen Mary, the Dionne Quintuplets and others. These handheld, "mobile" entertainments share similar play mechanics (tilting, tapping and shaking) to today's digital mobile games.
The Original Mobile Games has brought these virtual versions of objects from The Strong’s collections into the hands of thousands, and the digital press on the projects has received millions of media impressions. Twenty-four hours before this abstract was submitted an 18 minute YouTube playthrough of the Nintendo Switch version had received over 320,000 views. Amongst the hundreds of comments on the video were ones that discussed the writers new-found understanding of the foundational nature of the games, mentioned their nostalgia at having played them before, asked what the goals of the museum had been for creating the collection, and generally praised the institution for bringing these kinds of game to the attention of today’s avid gamers.
This talk will go in-depth into process of engagement and creation the curators, conservators and game developers engaged in to create the partnerships and the product. All parties learned a great deal about bringing their varied expertise in scholarship, content creation, IP and legal agreements and industry process to the project and this presentation will share those lessons learned.