The Gameful Museum: Authenticity and Entertainment in the Digital Age

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Engineering (EngD)


Digital technologies are part of our every day lives, affecting how people communicate and perceive the world, and pressuring museums into rethinking their exhibitions in order to stay relevant and drive visits. Visitors increasingly expect experiences that are not only educational and authentic, but also entertaining and relevant for them. However, museums are struggling to balance their traditional rigor with the requirements of a changing society and are increasingly considering participatory activities as a solution to better understand visitors and design experiences that are more relevant and engaging for the public.Among participatory practices, games are well-established and have been successfully used both as a co-design technique and as a method to collect data from and about players. Moreover, games are both engaging and relevant; they have a key role in contemporary society as they are played by an increasing number of people all over the world. Thus, games are gaining reach in entertainment, popular culture, and as an academic field of study. But despite their growing popularity and their potential as a participatory method, games are still used in museums for educational purposes rather than as a design and research method.The core of this thesis is the research of game-based activities - or gamefulness - as a tool to promote authentic and entertaining experiences in museums. In order to address this main research topic, I used a combination of methods, building upon theoretical work and a series of empirical studies. First, I developed an understanding of authenticity and entertainment, outlining their relevance in contemporary museums. Then, I planned a series of activities that involved playing and making games with both museum professionals and the general public. Through those game-based studies I investigated how to collect data to support the design of new interactive experiences. Thus, this thesis main contribution is Research through Games, a research method that employs game creation and game play to inform future user experiences that are both meaningful and entertaining. A secondary contribution is the implementation and validation of a method to measure visitors’ perception of authenticity and entertainment with interactive museum experiences. Since the perception of authenticity and entertainment is dictated by our personal feelings, I focused on accessing affective states. However, human feelings are particularly difficult to evaluate and traditional means are often intrusive or ineffective. Instead, our method is engaging, lightweight, and relies on graphical symbols to communicate emotions (a.k.a. Emoji).
Date of Award1 Jan 2018
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bath
SupervisorEamonn O'Neill (Supervisor)


  • gameful
  • museum
  • authenticity
  • entertainment
  • design
  • method
  • game
  • gameful design
  • storytelling
  • narrative

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