Interactive Media Young people & museums

Teens, Games and Civics 2008 Report from Pew Internet & American Life Project / some implications for interactives in museums

Another fascinating report from the Pew Internet & American Life Project, Teens, Games and Civics came out recently. Focussing on teen use of games (defined in very broad terms) the report is interesting reading.

It is revealing in that it shows that game playing is most definitely mainstream (95%+ participation) and that gaming is a primarily social and identity formation activity (pp 26-30) for teens. The gender, race and class splits are very interesting and the most popular genres of games (see pp16-25) are racing, puzzle, sports, action, adventure, and interestingly, rhythm (ie Guitar Hero etc) games. MMOGs (heavily skewed to boys) and virtual worlds have the lowest rates of play – I venture that this is possibly because of the ongoing costs associated with them and the usual requirement for a credit card (still a huge barrier to play for teens). This is likely to change rapidly because the report also shows that younger teens are more likely to have visited virtual worlds – again I expect that the impact of Club Penguin on pre-teens will flow through into a greater acceptance of virtual worlds by teens 5 years from now.

The report ends with some tentative results looking at civic engagement amongst teen gamers.

I’d be very interested to see a similar study done amongst Australian teens but already the implications for museums are clear.

Museums which have significant investments in game-like interactives in their galleries and online are already facing a very game-literate set of young audiences. These audiences, when they encounter a museum game or interactive now bring a far more sophisticated set of expectations with them. The recent introduction of new physical controllers like the Wiimote into the mainstream console space will also impact on teens’ opinion of (and thus engagement with) mechanical and physical interactives in our galleries as well. Likewise, as the pre-teens of Club Penguin etc grow older the expectation will be that interactive and game experiences in museums are far more social.

One reply on “Teens, Games and Civics 2008 Report from Pew Internet & American Life Project / some implications for interactives in museums”

That report is certainly getting saturation coverage in the media right now. We also talked about this at the Museums Australia Vic conference today, but only really briefly unfortunately.

I must say that our research has found that there is a clear delineation between the “education” world and the “leisure” world for teens (and probably for others too). My conclusions are that we need to get back to our real content and ditch the interactive stuff in exhibitions as they can get this elsewhere. I was reminded of this when reading Derek’s notes from the social media conference earlier this year.

I do think there’s a huge potential in the gaming genre tho, but i think more in the skills people develop from playing in their own space rather than providing that in our exhibitions. What do you think??

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