Gamification or designing games for cultural communication can be very different and of varying stages of complexity. Not everything is about technology and the use of smart phones and other devices. An old way of gamification has more in common with theatre than computer technology.
Live action role-playing (LARP) became popular during the last two decades of the 20th century although its roots go back to the first half of the century. At the start of the 21st century, LARP was considered a game for eccentric nerds only but in recent years it has gained more popularity. Role playing is played all over the world but the Nordic LARP has a unique status, with the planning of populous events where people dress up in costumes and character for a whole weekend. The web page nordiclarp.com offers a wealth of information for those who which to plan role playing games.
To use role playing to communicate cultural heritage you need to prepare thoroughly and have access to costumes. All participants must be ready to immerse themselves in the game and play their roles. The plot must be tailored to the target group and the problems which the players need to solve to drive the story must not be too difficult or too easy.
All over the world, there are museums and centres where staff greets visitors in costumes of the era in question. These members of staff often play the role of particular characters or narrators from the past. It is up to the visitors how far into the game they want to venture but the experience and the game usually assumes some kind of interaction. In the north, Viking museums are a known type of living museums where “actors” display old crafts and customs and follow a script. Another example which is almost defined as an amusement park is the Astrid Lindgren World in Sweden where scenes from the author’s books are staged for visitors to watch or even participate in.
At its simplest, staff only wears the costume of the period but does not have to adhere to a particular role.
Historical events are popular with those who are interested in theatre-based gamification. People are encouraged to show up and participate or just watch. In USA, staging events from the Revolutionary War is very popular. Thousands of people participate, dress in appropriate costumes and then they follow a factual chain of events in the place where it happened. The most popular staging, however, is probably grand battles where people and creatures from various fantasies and books fight each other.
Escape games or escape rooms are a growing entertainment industry around the world. In Britain only there are around 1500 escape games you can buy access to. Many escape games are based on stories from books or inspired by local literary heritage, while others are pure fiction, just a collection of puzzles to solve to get out of the space in question. Normally, escape rooms don’t require costumes; people can come in from the street to have a try. More often than not participants need to work together to escape.
Treasure Hunts & Orienteering
Most of us have, as kids, participated in treasure hunts or orienteering games. A simple game like finding an item in a defined space where the person in charge of the game tells you whether you are hot or cold is a treasure hunt in its simplest form. With more locations and clues to where to find the next item, this becomes orienteering where you need to solve the clue to find the next spot and solve the next puzzle etc. You can have groups competing against each other to get to the end first or collect the most points. The educational function can come from information which is communicated at each location, something you need to read or examine in order to solve the puzzle.
You can create a treasure hunt or orienteering simply with a pencil and a piece of paper. Nowadays, however, the smart phone has become a popular choice. Many apps and databases (CMS) are accessible to assist you in the creation of fun games, often free of charge. The Icelandic company Locatify is a pioneer in this field worldwide; many schools around the world have used their system to create educational games.
Some of these games are played worldwide, by a large number of people on their travels. One example is Geocache which started in 2000. The designers used a global positioning system (GPS) and later smart phones to point people towards places which might contain a treasure. On the locations you’ll find waterproof containers with some exciting items and a visitors’ log. Once you sign up for the game, you also get permission to add new locations. The person who finds a treasure writes their name in the visitors’ log and can take an item from the box but must leave another item in its stead. Then they log their find into the system. Today, many millions of treasures in this game are hidden all around the world. Similar games have also grown significantly in number.