Coming to Manchester to study a Masters in Art Gallery and Museum Studies was an interesting choice considering my background is in Interactive Media Design, but museums have always been my favourite places to go and I knew it would be possible to combine my two favourite things! Anything new, digital and interactive excites me, so when I was presented with the (rather extensive) list of placement opportunities, my eyes naturally scanned for the word ‘digital’.
Manchester Histories were offering a placement for the chance to get involved in a project that would be for the Manchester Histories Festival. Manchester Histories is a charity-based organisation that works with the local communities to deliver projects, events and activities to celebrate and uncover hidden histories for the public to learn and enjoy. The festival is a bi-annual event that the charity runs as a celebration of all the work that is achieved and the smaller groups that offer events based in the cultural sector. The project wanted a small group of students to work together to create a digital game that would ultimately be played by the public at the end of the placement. What appealed to me most about this placement was it offered me the chance to combine my knowledge of digital applications with the cultural sector into a unanimous project, which is something I hadn’t had the chance to explore. The project would also be a great addition to my portfolio, considering the more practical side of things, and the chance to develop something that would be tested by the public was a real plus. The digital game would be a chance for the festival to explore its online audiences, and to entice younger and more diverse audiences to get involved with history in new and exciting ways.
Working with the lovely Jess and Cat, our idea for the game quickly stemmed from the idea that essentially we wanted a visually enticing platform to appeal to contemporary audiences through social media. We designed the game SnapShot where players would submit photographs of historic sites or objects via Twitter or Instagram, along with a historic fact or story to gain points. To add another dimension to the gameplay we chose to incorporate a physical element that would not only bring the digital game back into the real world, but it would encourage the photographs to be taken in real time, and encourage the player to go out and about to literally discover hidden histories. After many discussions, this element change from a character, to a paper flag, to finally a frame, which would allow the player to ‘frame’ history.
Our individual roles became more established once the brief had been fully developed, and we moved to work on the content. With my background in design, I became the visualiser of the group and translated our ideas and concepts visually to help convey our ideas our placement supervisor (who is also the Chief Executive of MH). After several lumps and bumps along the way, our game looked and felt quite different from our initial idea. I will sidestep the details, but it has been a tremendous learning curve to work with several third parties to create a final product in time for the festival. In particular, for me, I feel that I have grown more confident in my abilities to communicate with others from different professions and that my social media communication and marketing skills have improved, which I know will help me greatly when it comes to future work and projects.