An app-based puzzle game is changing the museum experience

One of the latest entertainment phenomena is making its way into museums, thanks to some smart and creative technologists.

University of Minnesota-based Sam Porter and Colin McFadden were inspired by the growing Escape Room and Puzzle Room trend to create a new app-based game that takes users through the Minneapolis Institute of Art (Mia). We sat down with Porter recently to hear what she had to say about the app, Riddle Mia This. Here’s what we learned:

Riddle Mia This starts with an introduction from Kaywin Feldman, the Museum director and president, and then launches into a story and a series of clues that take the user through two floors of the museum to solve the puzzle. Most users spend about an hour completing the puzzle and more than 1,250 people have used the app so far.

While people go to museums for different reasons, the app is really targeting experience seekers–those who are looking for opportunities to engage actively in the space. “When you are doing an activity, you are really engaging people,” Porter said.

But it’s really a win-win for Mia – providing values-aligned experiences to their audiences, and giving the museum new access to the Escape/Puzzle Room market.

What’s next for the app?

Porter shared that while they only had time to create a single experience, they are putting the project on GitHub (a code repository) and hoping to connect with other institutions so that they can take that code to create their own site-specific experiences.

“The hard part is not the tech but is crafting a story that is interesting and unique to the institution.”

Beyond the app, Porter reflected on what might be next for museums. “The future is finding ways to leverage new ways to create experiences... it is about that space. The technology should inspire you to interact, rather than cut you off.”

Photos courtesy of the Minneapolis Institute of Art, by: Ana Taylor.