Can Art Be Gamified?

It’s Saturday. You have made plans with your only cultural friend to visit the local museum. You arrive at the museum and get a minor heart attack when you pay for the expensive entrance ticket. You go in. You walk past the paintings, sculptures or whatever. You do not really notice, because you find your conversation with your friend about the latest drama in your friend group much more interesting, much more relevant. You post a picture on Instagram to share the art piece you find the prettiest. After an hour of walking around you have walked past all the art works and are allowed to go to the museum’s café to buy a cappuccino and finally enjoy your Saturday.

Photograph by Anne Bro, April 2017

Do you recognise this? If you do, you should not be ashamed. I often feel this way, and I am a visual art student. And I do not think the problem is either you or me. I think the problems lies within the museum’s structure.

The number of visitors in museums and galleries are continuously dropping year by year (Ellis-Petersen 2017). As a student majoring in visual arts this concerns me both because of how important I find visual culture and also because my future employment is at risk. But on the other hand, I am not shocked. In our constant changing postmodern society, the fact that museums still exist in the somewhat same format as centuries ago is more shocking.

Photograph by Anne Bro, April 2017

The world and the people within it have changed. We are not impressed with or affected by visual representations in the same way as we were in ancient time. Most people in the Western world see countless of visual representations daily due to digital technology. If museums and galleries are to survive, they have to lose their anachronism even though the romantic idea of museums then might be challenged.

But what is the solution then? How can we engage people in the art that they meet at museums without it being on the cost of the institution or the artists? Tate Modern in London and San Francisco Museum of Modern Art are trying out a very possible solution to this problem. They are using the concept of gamification to engage their visitors.

Gamification is a concept that transfers some of the elements of game to non-gaming contexts. Elements such as scores, levels, competition and cooperation can be applied in another context to motivate and engage people (Kim 2015, p. 5-6). Gamification is already being used by several smartphone apps to motivate people to complete boring tasks in their everyday life (Faiella & Ricciardi 2015, p. 16).

gamification by Jurgen Appelo (CC BY 2.0)

The Tate Modern gallery has developed the app Race Against Time where players are taught about art history in a gamified environment. And San Francisco Museum of Modern Art has developed the app SFMOMA Families that encourage interaction throughout the museum (Raymond 2012).

While art by spirit is an engaging media to arise discussion and participate in society, the institutions providing this spirit need to make sure to adjust to contemporary society. Gamification is contemporary society’s contemporary solution to motive people in the crisis of engagement. For museums to implement gamified elements in exhibitions, they can find a form to restore the art world in the digital world.


Ellis-Petersen, H 2017, ‘British museums and art galleries hit by 1.4m fall in visitors’, The Guardian, retrieved 20. April 2017, <>

Faiella, F and Ricciardi, M 2015, ‘Gamification and learning: a review of issues and research’, Journal of e-Learning and Knowledge Society, vol. 11, no. 3, pp. 13-21

Kim, B 2015, ‘The popularity of gamification in the mobile and social era’, Library Technology Reports, vol. 51, no. 2, pp. 5-9

Raymond, RA 2012, ‘Playing with Art: The gamification of non-game spaces’, PCWorld, retrieved 20. April 2017, <>


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