THE VIRUS: Context-based learning programs in the museum environment

Hosan Kim, CKD Kochon Foundation, Korea, Jenn Rhee, CKD Kochon Foundation , South Korea


The VIRUS is a game-based convergence learning program combined with mixed reality and storytelling. This program offers participants an immersive educational experience in regards to the museum collection and exhibition. The unique structures of the program range from storytelling to digital experience media, such as augmented reality, virtual reality, and role-play elements. The presentation will be held in a case study format, and participants will have an opportunity for questions and discussion.

Keywords: mixed reality game, gamification, context based learning

1 . Introduction

Over the past decades, museums have tried to make effective ways to boost engagement using technology in their galleries. Although attempts have evolved from linear to non-linear, the basic concept of searching for an effective method for conveying the exhibition items and labels has remained the same (Klopfer et al., 2005). Recently, there has been an attempt to search for an effective way to communicate this message through the game (both game and gamification), the standard example being the Scavenger Hunt.
Although giving visitors enough understanding of the exhibition items is important, offering satisfaction to visitors is a difficult concept to figure out, and we have to concede that there is a “feel” of the architecture and other more subjective aspects of the visit (Dierking, 1989).

Despite the rise of collaborative learning environments using game strategy to improve participation in museum learning, few have attempted to address this head-on. In Kochon Memorial Hall, effective engagement points with the visitors are being discovered. We developed a context-based learning game program in 2015 and have been operating it to this day, in order to create an additional layer of meaning in the physical space of the museum.

This paper has two central goals: 1) to highlight several aspects of learning programs using game strategy; and 2) to flesh out effective CBLG (Context Based Learning Game program) not in the lab, but in the museum.

2. Challenges and solutions in developing CBLG

1) Challenges

Firstly, the lack of data on potential users of the program.

We had the following development goal: “To give students in the age range of 10 to 15 an understanding of the contents of the museum by letting them experience it through the education program that applied the game strategy.” But, we did not have the information on who those users are, what type of visitors they are, and their intentions when visiting the museum.

Secondly, the necessity of a way to measure the effect of the blur magic circle.

Salen and Zimmerman (2004) defined the “blur magic circle” as “a special place in time and space created by a game.” The mixed reality game is a mixed reality media that is simply located in a particular place, letting the interaction between the daily physical environment and the fabricated game reality take over. However, having the possibility of altering the senses and perceptions of the players in their very location contains an ambiguity regarding the time and location the game will be played and in, and the object of the interaction (whether it will be with a person or an artifact). Such ambiguity may be a factor that decreases the continuity and coherence of the game (Young Sung Kim, 2014).

As a solution to the aforementioned challenges, we focused on the blur magic circle, about which Lin and Sun (2010) said, “As long as players show respect for game rules, they perceive magic circle boundaries as sufficiently strong to prevent the over-mixing of game and real worlds.” After conducting an interview with a potential program user, we decided to make a persona, as well as elements other than technology, that will prompt the users to respect the game rules.

2) Solutions

Crafted Persona

We decided to include the persona method to define the potential program user. Although the personae are not real people, they were created with significant rigor to share the goals real people have; this was done directly from observations of real people. (Cooper et al., 2007). Just as an actor represents a character in a movie or novel, and through that character’s history we understand their feelings, goals, and behaviors, Personas represent people who have their own stories; this helps the development team to understand the user (Caballero et al. 2014).

We conducted an interview with 20 middle school students from ages 12 to 15 who visited and experienced the program between May and July 2015. The personae drawn out from the interviews is the following:

  “I want to be a movie star or celebrity“
Brief Information Name: Jaemin “Han Solo” Kim
Gender: male
Location: Seoul
Marital status: single
Living: 3 BR apartment with family
Occupation: middle school student
User story – I am sure that I am an homme fatale, so I have enough qualities to become a celebrity like the ones in the movies. I sometimes wish that I will become the hero in the TV shows.
– On one hand, I always do the favors my friend asks for. That is what “loyalty” and friendship is about. By the way, I like playing First Person Shooter (FPS) games with my friends.
– It’s in my nature to like freedom, and I find school classes boring.
-I visit the museum two to three times a year, but I hardly find it interesting. There are just too many “Don’ts” in the place.
– It’s fun to play “pulling the teacher’s leg” in the museum with friends. The game goes like this: play and laugh all we can, and when the teacher comes near, pretend that we have been enjoying the exhibition. The group that does not get caught wins the game.
Habits Watching my favorite TV shows on demand
Goals Cool guy

Table 1: definition of male persona

  “People treat me like a kid, but I’m really a grown-up.”
Brief Information Name: Soyoung Park
Gender: Female
Location: Seoul
Marital Status: Single
Living: 3 BR house with family
Occupation: Middle school student
User story – I do not like being treated like a kid at school or in my house; after all, I can find out anything I want on the Internet.
– I wish I could meet a celebrity. I want to be a heroine, like in the TV shows. The teacher usually decides everything about our visits, and lets us know afterwards.
– Museums are no fun; we are always doing something that the elementary school kids do.
– Friendship is really important. I wish there was something I could do with my friends in the museum.
Habits Collecting K-pop group souvenirs
Goals Nothing

table 2 : definition of female persona

The elements to make the users respect the game rules

a. Introduction of TV show format and theatrical elements

We needed the museum professional to adopt a serious attitude toward operating the program in order for the game users to respect the game rules. Despite the fact that they are clearly aware that the program is not an event happening in real life, we believed that a serious attitude when operating the program would help them be immersed in it. The story of the personae development team can be summed up as “Wanna be celebrities” and “Pulling a leg on teachers.” Therefor, we recruited a group of theater actors separately from the technology team in order to review the entire storyline and find an effective method for using the actors.

First, we introduced the format of the Korean TV show Running Man, a show the potential users are mostly aware of. Running Man was classified as an “urban action variety show“ where celebrities must complete a mission at a landmark to win the race. The program is created in such a way so that the users get the experience of being the celebrities on the show, and playing the role of the main character. Moreover, to maintain continuity and coherence throughout the program, the users are required to “act,” thereby maintaining the magic circle.

b. Development of accurate customized service for the potential users based on their characteristic classification

Although visitors have already decided upon their participation prior to their museum visit, there have been many cases where specific information was not obtained. Aside from the introduction of technology, there was a need for a development of customized service according to visitor’s characteristics, in order to achieve a focused environment where they will respect the game rule during play. The museum visitors can be classified into five categories, depending on the motivation for visiting: Explorers, Experience Seekers, Facilitators, Rechargers, and Professionals (Falk 2013). An analysis based on the crafted personae indicated that most potential users were classified as Experience Seekers. The satisfaction of Experience Seekers primarily derives from the fact of having “been there and done that.” Thus, we attempted to satisfy the potential users by including various forms of experiences as we developed the program.

3. The Virus: context-based learning games as educational programs in the museum environment

1) Storyline

Figure 1: storyline and brief instruction of participant

2) Characteristics

The first context-based learning game in a Korean museum

The VIRUS is a game-based convergence learning program combined with mixed reality and storytelling. This program offers participants an immersive educational experience that explores museum collections and exhibitions. The unique features of the program range from storytelling to digital experience media, such as AR, VR, and role-play elements.

Building additional layers in existing physical space

The existing exhibition spaces of Kochon Memorial Hall are set as the virtual space of KVRI (Kochon Vaccine Research Institute). Players are “junior researchers” of KVRI and must find a vaccine against the CJR virus through several missions.

Pervasive network

There is Hub (a central system connecting each team’s tablet via Wi-Fi) with a big screen to show information, like a leader board to check the other team’s achievements. When they start “The VIRUS,” a brief description of the game is displayed on the big screen of the Hub. A team of six to eight students play the game with a tablet, which communicates with the Hub.

Dramatic element

Actors and actresses play the role of senior researchers of KVRI and encourage visitors to solve missions related to the pharmaceutical industry and the museum collection.

3) Evaluation

This program is ongoing, and the number of participants has grown more than 13 times since February 2016.
325 students ages 10-15 who attend middle school participated in this game, and most of them (212) are 13 years old.
The majority (281) answered that they could be immersed in role-playing and most (310) of the participants responded that the technology in the game helped them to play an active role. 248 participants said that learning new information through hands-on media which incorporates both online and offline methods is more effective than just presenting the information one way.

4. Conclusion and future research

This project began with the issue that museums lack an effective method to convey a message to their visitors. Our project was a fresh attempt to narrow the gap between the museum and visitor through an educational program that utilized game strategy. This empirical study, which took more than 13 rounds of actual game operation, shows that this program, which is equipped with various devices to analyze the potential users and maintain the magic circle, is highly effective.

For future research, we will focus on overcoming the limits of our existing program; namely that it is exclusive to a particular class only. Using this program as a stepping stone, we will examine the usefulness of developing customized programs for visitors with a variety of hopes and intentions for their visit.


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Falk, J.H. & L.D. Dierking. (1992). The Museum Experience. Whalseback Books.

Falk, J.H. (2106). In A. Davis & K. Smeds (eds.) Visiting the Visitor: An Enquiry Into the Visitor Business in Museums. New York: Columbia University Press, 80-8.

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Dierking, L.D. (1989). “The Family Museum Experience: Implications from Research.” Journal of Museum Education 14(2), 9-11.

Salen, K., & E. Zimmerman. (2004). The rules of play: Game design fundamentals. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Cooper, A., R. Reimann, & D. Cronin. (2007). The essentials of interaction design. Wiley Publishing

Caballero, L. , A.M. Moreno, & A. Seffah. (2014). “Persona as a tool to involving human in Agile methods: Contributions from HCI and Marketing.” HSCE 2014-International Conference on Human Centered Software Engineering

Cite as:
. "THE VIRUS: Context-based learning programs in the museum environment." MW17: MW 2017. Published January 31, 2017. Consulted .

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