Leading Museums, Museum Leaders

The Voyage Game

Australian National Maritime Museum, The Voyage: launches today, 30 November 2015


Student Felix McPhail says interactive learning is more interesting than books. Source: ABC News, Alex Blucher.

Today we are officially launching our educational game, The Voyage, at the Tasmanian Museum and Gallery in Hobart.

The Voyage is a ‘serious’ game based on the transportation of convicts from Britain to Van Diemen’s Land in the early nineteenth century. The project is a joint venture between the museum and roar film Tasmania, the University of TasmaniaScreen Australia and Screen TasmaniaThe Voyage takes players on a journey from London to Van Diemen’s Land (now known as Tasmania) where, in the role of the ship’s Surgeon Superintendent, they are rewarded for the number of healthy convicts they deliver to the fledging British colony. The game is based on detailed historical data, utilising documented ship paths, convict and medical records and diaries.

Why a game for a museum? Research has shown that digital games have an enormous impact on the lives of children but their potential to improve learning has not yet been realised. Salen (2012) recognised the synergies between gaming and learning: “We see a huge intersection between games and learning, partially because the way game environments are structured is a lot like what good learning looks like”. However, relatively little is known about the ways in which students respond to different types of educational games, in different types of educational contexts, for different types of discipline or subject areas. This includes a lack of information about the difference between playing an ‘educational’ game at home, at school, or in another environment, such as a museum.

To investigate these issues further the museum partnered with Griffith University to undertake a series of studies with students in Year 9 (aged around 14–15 years) looking at their responses to playing games generally and their reactions to The Voyage specifically through questionnaires and focus groups. Some of the student comments included:

  • “[the game] combines audio, visual and kinaesthetic learning in a way that helps children, especially younger children who aren’t too interested in reading big blocks of text, to better absorb the information.”
  • “If you were to play the game in primary school and then you were to revisit the topic in high school, you’d have a better foundation which would help you just do better in history I guess, and appreciate history.”
  • “I did it [convicts topic] in Year Four. The method used was just sit in front of PowerPoint and try and take notes. I don’t know, but I retained just as much information from that game as I did from six hours of sitting in front of a PowerPoint learning information.”

The game is accompanied by online resource materials for students and teachers and a small pop-up exhibition with four text panels to accompany the game when on tour, as well as a series of four films to provide further context to the game:

  • The Descendants: descendants of convicts discuss their ancestors and how discovering their stories provides historical context about their life
  • The Historian: some of Australia’s leading convict historians dispel some of the myths about the voyages and convict life in general
  • Women and Children: Convict historians talk about the experience of women and children convicts
  • The Creators: game developers talk about some of the challenges involved in making the game fun but also historically correct

You can play the game online now. Enjoy!

See also: Alex Blucher, Convict game The Voyage allows kids to learn history as they play, ABC news, 30 November 2015


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