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Why does it matter if the heritage industry cares about gamers? What do gamers care about heritage? Appreciation and understanding of heritage is a two-way process. Museums throughout history have had to change the way they present information. Social, economic and political factors all influence the way museums dispense the knowledge contained therein  . Understanding how society changes as technology changes, and vice versa, is vital for a museum. Social imperatives are a large influence on how the museum presents its objects in a relevant and inspirational way. Not only does the heritage industry have to understand its audience, but the audience needs to feel encouraged and inspired to experience heritage.
The important element of this question is the definition of the 'PlayStation Generation'. The identification of this cultural grouping infers a certain set of characteristics and behaviours of its members. The implication is that this generation is made up of 'gamers', so rather than looking at how play is provided by museums, there is an exploration of the motivation and actions of gamers and the possible relationships that can be formed in a learning environment. This is more important than solely providing games for the museum's audience. If museums are reassessing their educational provision to make it the main commodity that they offer, then they have to understand their responsibility to the demands of emerging cultural groups  .
This essay concentrates on the museum space. Libraries and archives are more likely to have a different attitude to these processes as visitors to these establishments could be classed as having specific reasons for attending. Visitors tend to have a goal in mind when they head to a library or archive, whether borrowing specific books or searching for a particular document, whereas museums could be considered a place of passive visits; visitors generally visit to look at objects, specific exhibitions or to generally soak up the atmosphere - rather than with a specific learning goal in mind.
As society develops, as people develop new capabilities and as technology becomes more immersed in daily life, museums, libraries and archives need to understand these changes in order to retain their relevance to the current societal status. From one generation to the next, principles and privileges, prospects and positions change. Standpoints develop and evolve to differentiate the current generation from the previous generation. When identifying relevance of museums, libraries and archives to the PlayStation Generation, it is not necessarily about providing video-games for visitors, but to understand how players are being changed by the games that they play, and how museums, libraries and archives can capitalise on these changes to develop the visitor experience offered by the institution.
These changes, whether they are demands for impressive graphics, for immersive experiences, for choice or the desire for challenge or for fun, are important to the new visitors and museums, libraries and archives need to reflect this in how they present the knowledge they contain. Before understanding how museums, libraries and archives can change their offerings, the PlayStation Generation itself needs to be considered. The changes from the previous generations need to be identified and consideration made as to how these changes can be reflected in a museum, library and archive context.
Generations can be classified in a cultural context to identify a contemporary group with characteristics that differ from any other social grouping. Whilst the classification is generally used to identify a large social group with similar ages and experiences, it can also be used to identify more specific smaller groups which may share similarities, including cultural, social or political ideologies. The identification of the existence of a 'PlayStation Generation' suggests a particular set of characteristics that differentiates it from any other social grouping. Using the name of a particular consumable as an identifier could associate that generation with a particular corporate identity (in this case, Sony Computer Entertainment Incorporated) and also with a specific genesis date: the Sony PlayStation console was released in Japan in December 1994 and in the US/Europe in September 1995  , so it could be inferred that this was the time when the 'PlayStation Generation' was established, although this is a very simplistic interpretation It is more reasonable to believe that the PlayStation really symbolises the mass adoption of video-gaming. With the release of the PlayStation gaming was no longer the domain of the teenager, but was now acceptable in mainstream society. This is not to say that gaming didn't exist prior to the launch of the PlayStation as there were other games consoles available, but the Sony console could be described at the games console that moved into the familial space, away from the more 'specialist' consumers  .
Defining the period this generation covers is a little more circumspect, due to the reiterations, or 'generations', that the PlayStation console (along with other consoles that are available in a similar class) has gone through over the last fifteen years. Dwyer  suggests the term covers those born between 1990 and 2005, although this may not reflect the age range of those with an interest in gaming. For the purposes of this essay, it would be appropriate to class anyone who began their gaming with the launch of the PlayStation One or own(ed) mainstream consoles that include the PC, Microsoft X-Box and Nintendo's family of consoles as belonging to this PlayStation Generation. Gaming is the common denominator to this generation, so the question that is suggested is whether museums, libraries and archives satisfy a gaming need, whether technologically or behaviourally.
The traits that make this generation different from those preceding it need to be identified, in order to establish what its wants and needs are. With these desires clearly noted, the offerings of museums, libraries and archives can be examined to understand whether the desires are being satisfied.
Anne Dwyer's presentation looks at the differences in generational characteristics from the point of view of defining alternate teaching methods that can be utilised to engage and educate. As part of the essence of museums is to be "illustrative, instructional and educational"  , Dwyer's categorisations can be used as a starting point in recognising ways that museums can be instructional and educational for the PlayStation Generation. The skills that the PlayStation Generation have developed whilst playing games are not restricted to the virtual world but can be transferrable into the real world, as the skills developed can include problems solving, risk taking and meaning making. James Paul Gee supported this by defined thirty-six learning principles that can be developed through playing 'good' games and reflecting these principles that can facilitate learning in museums, libraries and archives  .
Dwyer suggests that the PlayStation Generation are difficult to "teach" but that it is easy to get them to learn. They are not passive absorbers of information, but need to engage with knowledge; to test and compare it with their own experience and existing knowledge in order to make their own meaning and construct their own conclusions. She believes that they are "searching for meaning" rather than absorbing facts; to them understanding is about communication and expressing meaning rather than learning 'parrot-fashion' and digital information is a tool to gaining that knowledge. Teaching the PlayStation Generation has to be "experiential" - gamers learn to progress through a game using trial and error, with little risk of real physical punishment for failure, as well as collaborating with peers; perseverance is rewarded but FAQ's (frequently asked questions) and cheat sheets can be used to get to the goal quickly. A teachers role is now becoming that of one of "facilitator" rather than "mentor"; pupils are learning to think more widely; to involve all aspects of their lives and experiences in searching (and finding) meaning, and this is something that museums, libraries and archives can capitalise on to encourage visitors to engage with the collections more successfully. According to Dwyer, the PlayStation Generation are "creative problem solversâ€¦ experienced communicatorsâ€¦.a self-directed learners".
James Paul Gee's principles also bear examination as he approaches the issue from the question of the benefits that gaming has for literacy and learning theory, rather than how to teach the gaming generation. His thirty-six principles may not all be applicable to the heritage environment, but there are a number that bear further exploration of their application to the heritage industry  .
The 'Semiotic Principle' is a theory that can assist visitors in making meaning with objects and themes  . Meaning is not solely conveyed through language; visual symbols are often vital to supporting and expanding on the desired communication. The combination of words and images promote a multi-modal approach; an approach that video games are excellent at. Rarely (in the current generation of gaming) are narrative, plots or challenges provided purely through text; ambient noise, images and sensation can all be used to suggest paths to follow, puzzles to solve and tell the story. The understanding of the meaning of signs and symbols in different contexts is one skill that can be stimulated and learnt through playing games and can be transferred to the heritage environment. Objects tend not to stand alone in an exhibition; they are related to their surroundings, their histories, their context, other objects and ultimately to the visitor who observes and makes meanings from the objects in their environment. If the visitor has an understanding of how to make links between different contexts and objects, this process can facilitate making meaning adding to the satisfaction and enjoyment of the visit.
The second principle worth considering is the 'Multiple Routes Principle'  . This suggests that within games there is often no one singular, linear path to the taken to reach a goal. Within the gaming sphere there are numerous ways to move ahead with the story. Choices are made which can influence the outcome. In more sophisticated games, for example the recently released 'Heavy Rain' game, almost every action and choice has a consequence that affects the conclusion of the game  . With multiple paths available, a learner (or visitor) can make choices that play to their strengths, they can to follow their own style of learning and of comprehension to achieve the desired outcome from the visit. Supplementing the usual linearity of an exhibition with multiple pathways through the presented knowledge allows visitors to make their own (albeit loosely guided) connections between objects and themes without feeling that they are being force-fed an authoritative and pre-determined conclusion.
The PlayStation Generation has developed a different set of methods and skills in developing understanding, meaning and conclusions through the playing of games. They are unlikely to be satisfied with enforced learning, with being directed to answers rather than making their own paths to their desired goal. There are also "intrinsic motivations"  that occur when playing and these are explored below in relation to the museum and learning perspective.
Museums, libraries and archives are not generally known for being places where play is encouraged, although there is a general agreement from educational theorists that more interactivity is needed in learning. Based on G R Amthor's argument that "people retain about 20 percent of what they hear; 40 per cent of what they see and hear; 75 per cent of what they see, hear and do", it seems obvious that to include an element of interactivity and play into an educational environment enables the visitor to understand and retain more information than if they were empty vessels waiting to be filled with institutionally accepted information  . Museums could be seen as needing more 'fun' in their constitution, but are museums and fun mutually exclusive?
In 1978, Dillon Ripley explored his philosophy relating to museums and fun. He believed that there is "â€¦no essential difference between the learning environment of the museum and the world of fun and games; one should be able to move naturally between the two."  . This philosophy has almost been forgotten by the modern museum, whilst the pre-modern museum experience was much closer to that of fairs and amusement parks. Rather than the scientific specialisation and classification of content, pre-modern museums were places of "surpriseâ€¦or wonder"  . There is no reason why the philosophy of classification and the philosophy of fun cannot be combined into the museum space to offer a thought-provoking experience that also provides an element of educational authority  .
Play is the basic behaviour for the PlayStation Generation and there are many theories as to the success of using play to stimulate learning. Roussou explores these theories as a prelude to her discussion relating to virtual reality as a vehicle for engagement; using play not only to interest and inspire visitors to museums, but to efficiently communicate the museum's educational programme.
Malone and Lepper's theory explores the opportunities that games can provide to encourage motivation and engagement in learning. They believe that games can provide "intrinsic motivations" for learning. Whether playing alone, or as part of a multi-player situation, these inherent characteristics are present and provide motivations for learning behaviours. The intrinsic motivations are defined by Malone and Lepper as; challenge, curiosity, control, fantasy, competition, co-operation and recognition. Exploring these motivations from within a gaming context can reflect the opportunities available in a learning context.
Good games are designed to provide variable difficulty curves, the challenge coming from providing trials that match the developing skills of the player. A game that doesn't demand extra effort and input from the player will only bore and frustrate the player and they will turn to something else to stimulate themselves. The same could be said of the learning process. Education needs to be demanding on the student to keep them inspired and interested in improving their knowledge and cultivating their skill-sets.
The novelty and surprises that a game environment can provide stimulates a player's curiosity. A game environment is different to reality, but a player can use their real world knowledge or previous experience of certain genres of games to understand the challenges a game throws at them. The curiosity comes from the cognitive conflict that results from the discovery that previous skills and information don't necessarily work in the current game. The way information is presented in a museum can engender the feeling in an individual that their knowledge is incomplete or contradictory, therefore inspiring them to seek out additional information to satisfy their inquisitiveness.
A player needs to have control when playing. The ability to make choices that affect the outcome of the game, or the power to control elements of or other characters in the game offers a semblance of control which might not be available to them in the real world. Incorporating feedback within a learning context can offer the student a feeling of self-determination; that they actually have an influence on the learning goals and the path that is forged to those goals.
A gaming environment with an element of fantasy stimulates the emotional needs of the player. The environments and challenges may be separate from reality, but can provide a metaphoric situation that allows the player to test their responses and reactions without any real-world consequences. When learning, the fantasy elements need to have some relation to the material being explored but can still provide motivation to continue learning. A museum has access to plenty of original and interesting stories that are different from contemporary life so provide an element of fantasy for visitors to learn from.
Competition offers gamers the opportunity of feeling accomplishment. By comparing their performance to other players, gamers can revel in their glory or feel challenged to compete with better players. Learners can also feel satisfaction when they compare their performance favourably with others. Competition within education can provide camaraderie within a group of students, can provide relevance to their position and progression as a student as well as satisfying their need for achievement.
Players feel satisfied when their accomplishments are recognised. Whether this recognition is found through in-game achievements or trophies, or the satisfaction that comes from topping a leader board, if someone else acknowledges the success of the player, then they feel a level of fulfilment that encourages them to continue with their tasks. In a museum
Games also succeed when a level of co-operation is available. There can be an element of frustration when the logic of the games designer is too obscure for the player to follow, so by engaging with other players, through forums or websites, players can swap hints and tips to help each other achieve the desired goal. Learners can also appreciate the satisfaction that comes from helping others achieve their objectives. By providing a feedback opportunity, visitors to a museum can proffer their own interpretations or knowledge to assist other visitors to understand the exhibitions and enrich the experience of both groups.
All these elements are employed in game design to focus the players' awareness and desire for interaction whether it is to progress the narrative or to explore and develop social interactions and relationships  . These seven motivations can be transferred to a museum in order to encourage a dialogic approach to the educational policy. These suggested new skills that have been developed by the Gaming Generation are applicable in the 'real' world as well as in the gaming world. It is about the technology or about the cognitive and behavioural skills of the visitors?
There have been two approaches; incorporating the technology because it is available and looks impressive, or for the museum to try and understand the thought processes of the PlayStation Generation and adapt accordingly how information is disseminated within the institution. The first option is reasonably simple for an institution to implement by potentially placing a screen that dispenses information into an exhibition space with little or no input or interaction from the visitor. If no consideration is taken of the reasons behind incorporating technology into a display; if no care is taken to make sure that the ICT is not simply providing a digital representation of the object labels, then new technology doesn't add anything to the visitors experience or understanding. If, on the other hand, the technology is designed and implemented thoughtfully and sympathetically, complimenting the existing physical exhibition and providing useful content that visitors can feedback through, or engages and challenges them in some way, then technology can support and supplement the institutions goals.
One set of practices that could provide museums with a tool for encouraging engagement between themselves and their visitors has been mooted as those that are displayed by Alternate Reality Gaming. Moseley's 2008 article discusses the opportunities that on-line reality games, or Alternate Reality Games (ARG's), could have for higher education, but contains principles that could be applicable for a museum context  . Definition of an ARG is flexible, but one of the main ARG forum sites, unfiction.com, describes it as:
"an interactive fusion of creative writing, puzzle-solving, and team-building, with a dose of role playing thrown in. It utilizes several forms of media in order to pass clues to the players, who solve puzzles in order to win pieces of the story being played out. Clues can be passed through web pages, email, voicemail, snail mail, television advertisements, movie posters, campus billboards, newspaper classifiedsâ€¦ really, in any way that information can be passed  . "
ARG's are an "immersive fiction"; that uses community power to solve puzzles and reach a goal  . Whilst a full-scale ARG may not be appropriate in a heritage context there are elements that Moseley defines that could be used to encourage community and social behaviour within a museum, as well as utilising the range of skills a digitally agile generation is building. These elements could also be tied into Malone and Lepper's intrinsic motivations. Again the elements of challenge, curiosity, control, fantasy, competition, co-operation and recognition can be used within an ARG to maintain a player's interest in the game.
Exploring Moseley's list of usable features gives a number of suggestions of how they can be utilised in museums. Moseley begins with "problem solving at varying levels" as an essential element of ARG's. Players are challenged by puzzles at graded skill levels and related feelings of achievement, completion and progression, and they can answer in-game questions or progress the narrative. In a museum space, puzzles can be related to exhibitions or themed around displays, even produced on websites or on in-house audio/video tours. Visitors can choose the puzzles they want to attempt and, if the puzzles are sympathetically designed, they can learn or test their knowledge related to the subject.
The second element is providing progression and rewards. Prizes could be offered to those visitors that complete a certain set of puzzles, who solve a set of clues, or who reach a set of defined goals. This could offer an incentive for repeat visits, whether on-line or physical. By combining these two elements, museums can provide a dialogic interaction with the subject matter as well as encouraging visitors to experience challenges, achievement and progression and hopefully enjoying themselves during their visit.
ARG's are generally based on "simple, existing technologies/media". The vehicles for the puzzles, the community, and the storyline already exist in the digital world. There is little need to develop new systems or software to communicate the message. Using websites, audio tours, existing interactives or smartphones, a museum can promote and visitors can take part in a narrative flow to the shared objectives.
An important part of a successful ARG is that there is "regular delivery of new problems/events" which has to occur to sustain interest in a goal. The audience is likely to be time-limited and needs to be stimulated regularly to maintain their engagement. Without regular challenges, the narrative could become stale and visitors could lose interest in the story, departing from the desired target. Tackling this issue in a museum could be a challenge. Regularly updating the puzzles and maintaining the engagement of the audience, could prove costly, not only because of the staff hours spent creating new content, but also because of financial implications.
This essay has concentrated on the behaviours that have developed from the PlayStation Generation, that are evolving through the current generation and will continue to evolve as technology develops. These behaviours should be recognised by the heritage industry as fundamental to the development of appropriate educational facilities for audiences. How can we measure the way that museums, libraries and archives have adapted their services to incorporate these skills and whether they have been successful?
Since the middle of the Nineties the importance of a symbiotic relationship between the museum and its audience has become even more meaningful. The move from a transmission model of education to a situation where personal relevance to the displays is constructed has improved the educational role of the museum  . The foundation for a successful educational programme is in realising that an audience is varied in many different ways; ages, gender, learning styles, morals/ethics, ethnicity, etcetera  . When visitors make meaning within a museums context, the meaning they make is contingent on their own interpretative skills; they will use the familiar knowledge within their domain to comprehend the objects they are seeing  . If a heritage institution doesn't recognise and appreciate its multifaceted audience then the message that is being broadcast may not be realised. The PlayStation Generation is a part of the audience of the museum so the needs of the community should be understood and incorporated into the product. The fact that participation and interactivity is becoming important to the future of a museum as well as a fundamental element of the development of digital media, could suggest that these proficiencies and behaviours discussed above are being understood and implemented within the heritage industry.
Has the moment passed for museums to be in touch with the PlayStation Generation as a specific entity? The PlayStation Generation has grown up with the birth and explosion of home computing and has observed the march of technology with appreciation, almost being in awe of the current capabilities of technology that are so far from the beginnings they have witnessed. Rather than being left behind by technology, a majority of the PlayStation Generation has is more likely to have progressed to smartphones and social networking sites, continually developing their own abilities to manage and interpret information. They could now be perceived as 'digital elders', not born digital, but appreciative of the new technologies and willing to immerse themselves in these new tools  . The PlayStation Generation could be considered obsolete as the PlayStation One itself (as the current iteration is now the PlayStation 3), as digital technologies have developed at such a rate, the focus for heritage institutions is on applications, mobility and social networking. If museums, libraries and archives are out of touch with this generation, then it is likely to be because people are all becoming digital elders and moving with the technology as it marches on. Whilst this generation may have moved on, the ideologies and behavioural abilities remain crucial to the development of the educational imperative of the heritage industry.