The Museum Mystery

Stop the thief!
“Good you’re here! One of my former students is up to something fishy. I have the feeling that he wants to steal something from this museum!”

This is how Professor Blom greets you, when you start The Museum Mystery in one of the participating museums, and usually children are immediately hooked. They want to help Professor Blom stop the mischievous thief, Heidenreich, before he runs off with an invaluable cultural artefact – because, as Professor Blom’s motto goes: “It belongs in a museum.”

Heidenreich doesn’t agree. He wants to possess our cultural heritage. He is extremely rich, but there are so many wonderful cultural artefacts out there that cannot be bought. So, he tries to steal them from museums all over the World.

Luckily, Heidenreich always enjoys a good treasure hunt and decides to put you to the test: If you prove to know as much about the museum as he does, he will give you clues to the artefact he plans to steal – and thus give you the chance to stop him.

A treasure hunt in the museum - and in the next one
The game takes you on a treasure hunt through the museum. Heidenreich presents a riddle – like this one at Christiansborg Palace in Copenhagen: “Members of the Danish Royal family are very lucky because they have their portraits painted. Some of them are even woven! You will get the first clue, if you can find the woven image of the Queen of Denmark here at the palace.”

Each version of The Museum Mystery has seven riddles like this that forces the child to explore the museum and learn about the selected artefacts that are part of the game. At the end, you must try to guess which artefact, Heidenreich wants to steal based on your clues. If your guess is correct, the museum guards will stop Heidenreich and you have completed your mission.

The game is very easily scalable as the concept is the same in all participating museums. However, the riddles and the specific storyline are adapted 100 % to match the educational ambitions of the museum, thus ensuring that each game is always a different experience from place to place.

A lo-tech game that stimulates physical play and problem-solving
On the technical side, The Museum Mystery is quite simple. We don't want the children to constantly stare at their smartphone when they are in a museum. Therefore, we have not built an advanced 3D-world on the screen or used AR og VR-technology.

The phone tells a great story and facilitates a game that is for the most part played in the physical space of the museum. The children must move around the museum and find the cultural artefacts that are the answer to Heidenreich's riddles. And when they have found one, they must answer a question related to the specific artefact in order to prove that they have indeed found the correct one.

Like this example from the riddle mentioned earlier: "So, have you found the woven queen? If you have, tell me how many necklaces this delightful woman is wearing around her neck." This extra question motivates the children to have a closer look at the object, and our tests show that they find it fun.

A humorous narrative universe with "distant hills"
The game concept and narrative is developed by Frederik Hansen and Andreas Nederland at their company, OK Monkey. One of the keys to the success of the game is the humorous main character, Heidenreich, and the way he teases the players. He gloats a lot if you cannot solve his riddles and he never tries to hide the fact that he feels superior to the children playing the game - thus motivating the children all the more to prove him wrong.

Another key feature of the game is the fact that its universe is much bigger than the museum you are currently playing it in. One of the challenges for using gamification in museums is that the experience often becomes too small - limited to the time you actually spend at this particular museum.

Combining all museums in one game allows us to introduce a universe with so-called "distant hills": You get the sense that by playing the game at one museum you are only starting to submerge yourself in a bigger game universe, and that motivates you to play on and gives us the opportunity to fully exploit the potential of gamification.

It works
The game is played through the Useeum app, and it costs 10.000 Euros for a museum to add a mission of The Museum Mystery to their Useeum profile. The Danish museums that are currently part of the game have good experiences with it - as these statements from Roskilde Museum show:

"We have seen many school classes who come here just to play The Museum Mystery. The children respond to the characters in a positive way and love the cheeky language they use." Annette Birk Lund, Head of communication at Roskilde Museum.

"The app never gets outdated because it is developed and maintained by professional people - and we get the opportunity to reach the younger target groups by communicating with them in a modern way. It works! Iben Bækkelund Jagd, Deputy director at Roskilde Museum.

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