In 1977 the artist and designer Bruno Munari created “Playing with art”, first children workshop at the Pinacoteca of Brera in Milan. Munari’s idea was to make the museum a place of experience, where children can partecipate actively using main techniques of artistic expression. Munari preferred action to words, saying that game experience fosters children’s process of learning. He said: “if I listen I forget, if I see I remember, if I make I understand”.
Nowadays museums employ the same pedagogical principles taking advantage of the modern mobile technologies. The use of portable devices to explore informal learning environments has exposed museums to a mobile learning scenario. In particular, location-based applications can be considered valuable resources to enhance the visitor experience. A location-based game (or location-enabled game) is a type of pervasive game in which the gameplay evolves and progresses via a player’s location. Thus, location-based games must provide some mechanism to allow the player to report their location, frequently this is through some kind of localization technology, for example GPS. The player not only interacts with the devices in specifically situated physical and social contexts, but these interactions generate new contexts that ultimately affect the learning process. So through the use of these mobile applications supporting the visit, museums can turn into pervasive learning environments, where the bridging of the objects of the real world with a virtual environment by means of mobile tools can contribute to the learning process.
“Intrigue at the museum” is an example of location-based game which transform the museum space into a place of edutainment. It is designed for children aged 7-13 visiting Palazzo Madama-Museo Civico d’Arte Antica, an ancient art museum located in Turin. The game’s goal is finding a thief solving quizzes, puzzles, riddles and searching for clues in the rooms of the museum. The work of some researchers from Politecnico of Turin, who observed 30 young visitors playing with the game, provides evidence that location-based mobile games may represent a valuable learning resource in the museum scenario, since a careful design of the proposed activities can limit the obtrusiveness of the technology and facilitate engagement as a precursor of learning.