March 24, 2009
Susan Anderson may be the first curator to star in a video game. She can’t pack heat like Lara Croft Tomb Raider, but Anderson is a different kind of heroine. Her strength is her intelligence and it comes in handy after a 7.6 magnitude earthquake devastates the fictional National Museum of History. Falling debris knocks her unconscious, and when she awakes, Anderson is alone in the midst of ruined exhibits.
This is the premise of “Escape the Museum,” by Majesco Entertainment, coming out today for the Wii system and home computers. You are in the shoes of Anderson, who must outsmart the museum security system to save art and artifacts from the now unstable displays. The game is in the “hidden object” genre, which means a heavy emphasis on puzzle solving.
I asked George Donovan, President of Gogii Games, the producers of “Escape the Museum,” whether they had the Smithsonian in mind during development.
JC: What is the National Museum of History based on? Are there any real pieces of artwork or specimens in it?
GD: We created the Museum based on a number of periods in history and research, not necessarily a certain museum. One thing that is mentioned in the game by name was [the hammer of German archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann]. The player uses it to complete one of the puzzles.
JC: Video games are dominated by fantastical settings such as post-apocalyptic worlds, floating kingdoms and the stars. Why choose a museum as a game setting?
GD: In hidden object games one of the main concerns when choosing a theme is variety of locations. With a museum we were able to make every room or exhibit a unique and different experience for the player. Never the same content twice. That is why we are making the sequel now.
JC: Who is the curator heroine based on? What kind of personality does she have?
GD: She’s based on our target audience, a 35- plus year-old female puzzle solver and someone who is compassionate and uses their brain to solve complex puzzles.
JC: Do you think this game will motivate players to go to real-life museums?
GD: I hope so. Maybe they saw an exhibit or some artifacts in the game and want to get a closer look. So many topics are covered, from dinosaurs to space.
JC: Are there any surprises to making a video game like this?
GD: I’m always surprised how much I learn myself from researching scenes and ideas. Sometimes I get lost reading Wikipedia for hours on a topic.
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