THE ARTS+ Innovation Summit: Bringing a museum outside the museum: The case of “Father and Son”

By Fabio Viola

BU: Fabio Viola is one of the world’s leading game designers, founder of the cultural association TuoMuseo and a speaker at THE ARTS+ Innovation Summit.

In one of those unpredictable turns of life, a boy who grew up in the 1980s with two great passions, not to say obsessions – videogames (to my parents’ and their wallets’ great delight) and history – now finds himself writing about precisely these issues.

After having studied archaeology at university and working for a decade with international entertainment companies like Electronic Arts and Vivendi Games (on projects such as Harry Potter, SimCity, Need for Speed and Hello Kitty), last year the charitable foundation Fondazione Cariplo gave me a chance to connect the dots of my life. There is no doubt that without their cultural innovation programme and starting grant I would not be part of THE ARTS+, my company TuoMuseo – a cultural association that aims to find solutions for the future of cultural heritage – never would have been founded, and projects like “Father and Son” never would have come to life.

I won’t dwell on the game since you can download it for free from an app store and Google play to get an idea of it on your own.

The game was published and funded by the National Archaeological Museum of Naples, making it one of the first case studies in the world at the intersection of a cultural institution and creative start-up. In an interview a few days ago, Italian Minister of Culture Dario Franceschini recognised “Father and Son” as an art form – a statement that is sure to open a wide range of new opportunities for our industry. Last but not least, using technology, we attempted to bridge the gap between digital and physical experience. We included a check-in option in the game’s main menu, where players can unlock additional in-game contents only when actually physically visiting the museum. The result? Over 10,000 players went to Naples and paid the 12-euro admission fee in order to unlock new game areas or outfits for the main characters.

Six months after the game’s launch, it’s time to share some initial insights:

  • The game has already crossed the one-million downloads In the same period, 250,000 individuals have visited the museum.
  • The average age of the gamers is 33, and 35 per cent of them are female.
  • In terms of audience, only 15 per cent of the gamers come from Italy. We have a large user base in countries like Russia, Turkey, India, USA, Indonesia and Thailand.
  • Collectively, gamers have spent 50,000 years with the game. Consider the value in terms of education and marketing.
  • The game has received over 12,000 reviews with an average rating of 4.6 out of 5. We doubled the number of museum feedback entries on TripA

Moving beyond this specific case study, I would like to share five things that I have learned with TuoMuseo:

  1. There are tremendous opportunities for combining technologies to develop our cultural heritage.There is a glut of cultural “brands” out of there with untapped potential, both in terms of audience development and revenue streams. What if we created a matchmaking portal where film directors, game producers, musicians and AR/VR developers could find places and stories for their new projects and reach agreements with the administrators of cultural heritage institutions? I would like to create a game about the Medici family in Florence – what a huge opportunity we are missing!
  2. Many cultural institutions can’t handle the rate at which new technologies are evolving on their own. I’m worried about the legacy ofeven ambitious tech projects like mine: If these projects are simply outsourced, they will always be short-term solutions without real knowledge transfer. Every cultural institution should adopt a tech start-up for constant inspiration and mutual benefits.
  3. Technology should not only be considered a cost. Rather, by integrating it into a strategic plan, it can be a source of new revenue streams, something I will discuss in a talk at THE ARTS+ Runway. With “Father and Son”, in just six months, the museum earned 120,000 euros thanks to gamers checking in – not only recouping the cost of the project but even making a For our next projects, we are exploring several additional revenue streams, including game-related merchandising, a virtual tour available as an add-on after a micro-transaction, a contextualised in-game donation system, product placement of other cities/cultural sites, and so on.
  4. While public and private funding programmes play a key role in attracting new talent, start-ups and skilled individuals, intermediaries are crucial to creating a network. A significant share of my revenue comes from companies I met for the first time at events like Artlab, a platform in Italy dedicated to innovating practices and policies in and through arts and culture, organized by the Fitzcarraldo Foundation.
  5. Creative contamination is In our company, we have developers, artists, audio designers, art historians and archaeologists. I think cultural institutions should also be more inclusive. I dream about a public office hiring a game designer.

About Fabio Viola

Scientific Director of the “Engagement & Gamification Design” master’s degree programme at IED Milan, Fabio Viola previously worked for various international videogame companies, including Electronic Arts Mobile and Vivendi Games, becoming one of the most recognised gamification designers in the world. Currently, he helps corporations and public institutions introduce game thinking into their products and services. Author of the book “L’arte del Coinvolgimento” (Hoepli), in 2016 he founded TuoMuseo, a non-profit company active at the intersection of videogames/gamification and culture. The company has already developed several projects, including “Father and Son”, the first videogame published by an archaeological museum to be downloaded one million times.

About TuoMuseo

TuoMuseo is a non-profit start-up founded in 2016 by several videogame and creative-industry veterans. Focused on innovate audience-engagement projects, it has received the Fondazione Cariplo’s award and grant for cultural innovation, among other distinctions. TuoMuseo’s projects include the successful videogame “Father and Son”, published by the Archaeological Museum of Naples, and the “Hannibal vs Romans” 4D movie experience built on a videogame engine.

Why did we launch THE ARTS+ Innovation Summit?

Innovation is crucial to keeping the European Union at the forefront of global competition and growth – and this also applies to the Cultural and Creative Industries (CCI). To this end, the European Parliament, European Commission, UNESCO, OECD and other institutions have launched initiatives to improve support for innovation and market conditions for the CCI. The ARTS+ supports this new agenda for innovation and represents a unique collaboration between strategic partners from across Europe: the Fitzcarraldo Foundation/ArtLab (Italy); New European Media (NEM)/Madrid Network ICT Audiovisual Cluster (MAC) (Spain); I3European Creative Business Network (ECBN)/European Centre for Creative Economy (ecce); and the European Commission, Directorate General for Culture and Education (DG EAC)/Creative Europe. This strategic partnership for innovation in the CCI, begun at THE ARTS+ in 2017, aims to create an innovative ecosystem to support tech-triggered innovation, accelerate the rate and success of innovation, and overcome specific bottlenecks in cultural-creative innovation at the crossroads of culture, technology and business. THE ARTS+ Innovation Summit is a new event, innovative in of itself, that aims to foster this ecosystem – and it will be followed by a series of events to prepare the ground for a bigger – and more political – THE ARTS+ Innovation Summit in 2018.

THE ARTS+ is organized as part of ALDUS – the network of European book fairs – and co-funded by the Creative Europe programme of the European Union.