What do two designers, a recruiter, a communications director, an IT professional and a registered nurse have in common? A belief in the power of art, of course! The Museum Crawlers are a ragtag bunch of hackers who share a passion for history and exploring the connections between everything and everyone. Coming into this project, we knew our diverse skill set could take us far, and so we embraced that diversity from the get-go. We decided to create a game that would encourage museum visitors to make connections like we did: between items in the PMA’s collection, societies, places and time of creation, and more.
Time Bandit focuses on themes in order to move visitors through the museum and introduce them to pieces in the permanent collection that were produced at different times and within different cultures. We wanted to link pieces that were created centuries and worlds apart. This naturally led to discussions of time travel, with most of us thinking back to the classic "Carmen Sandiego" series, in which the eponymous thief trotted about the globe (and through time!) looking for things to steal.
We thought more carefully about the themes we brainstormed during our planning sessions, and realized that many of the themes centered around struggles of power. We know that art has power, and some people like to steal power from others. And so we developed a game based on that: a thief tries to steal interconnected pieces that relate to a powerful theme, and a detective tries to thwart that thief. We looked to “80 Days”, the mobile game based on Jules Verne Around the World in 80 Days, as an example for story and implementation, and to the Museum’s “A is for Art History” to see what gameplay experiences already existed.
What We Did
We set out to create a game that was engaging, educational, and delightful. In order to understand what an audience at the PMA might enjoy, we drafted a quick survey to learn about visitors’ experiences at the PMA. We collected information pertaining to demographics, visitor behavior at the museum, and usage of mobile devices, specifically as it relates to game play. We referred to this brief but helpful data set throughout development.
We wanted to encourage visitors to make connections and feel like the art could come alive, and so we decided to utilize Augmented Reality through the Unity game engine. We took time to brainstorm, hash out ideas, and work to each of our strengths: developing, designing, writing, and researching. Building the game was a team effort, with all of us collaborating and giving feedback, almost round the clock. We made sure to connect in person at all of the Museum’s hack nights (and once more shortly before the deadline!), in addition to daily Slack chats, and frequent uploads to Google Drive and github. Many were the lunch break check ins and updates about each of our tasks.
And after all that, we did it! We created something fun and unique, and we hope you enjoy “Time Bandit” as much as we do.
What it does
In “Time Bandit,” museum visitors are on a mission: to travel through time as they search for pieces from the permanent collection. Visitors may choose to play as a notorious thief-for-hire working for an evil genius going by the pseudonym Clementine, or as a detective with the Philadelphia Intertime Task Force assigned to catch this rogue—or stop these heists before they occur. Using Augmented Reality, visitors search out and "snatch" or "save" pieces they find after unraveling cryptic clues from Clementine or the Task Force, discovering movements that have shaped the course of history.
Accomplishments that we're proud of
We’re all so happy with our game, and proud of the work we have put in as a group. “Time Bandit” was a total team effort, and most of us had never met before the Hackathon’s opening night. What's more, for three of us, it was our first hackathon - and the first time making any sort of app, much less a game. It was a fun challenge to create this experience for museum visitors over the course of a month, all while balancing life, school, and full time jobs!
What's next for Time Bandit
If we have the time, we'd love to develop our demo into a full-length game! (Maybe the Philly Museum of Art needs a Game Designer in Residence? hint hint)