“NUBLA” is a laboratory of innovation in the gaming field, developed by the Education Department at the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum which, among other projects, has produced the video game “NUBLA, THE GAME” in collaboration with the Gammera Nest development team and with support from Sony Computer Entertainment Europe. “Nubla” is one of the main projects in the department’s digital strategy, which also includes educathyssen.org, Thyssen Kiosk and the apps Crononautas, A Journey to the West and Experiment Now! We have also developed a wide-ranging training strategy for museum staff and education professionals on the use of technology in the teaching of art.
As a laboratory of innovation, Nubla’s main aim is to develop projects connected to technology and video games, with the hope that the conceptualisation, implementation and production of projects and games by young people in an open and collaborative atmosphere will allow them to become more involved in the museum. With this in mind, Sony Computer Entertainment Europe has supported the project by including it in PlayStation Talents and Sony Entertainment Spain has created a launcher, which will act as a ground-breaking talent pool and training ground for the video game industry known as Lanzadera MAD-.
As well as developing “NUBLA THE GAME” for PlayStation 4 within the “NUBLA” project, we have also produced the “ISLANDS OF NUBLA” game for tablets and we are working on “METROPOLIS”, a video game which continues the story of “NUBLA, THE GAME” and will be the second instalment in a trilogy which sequentially explores concepts such as new types of games, innovative educational strategies in museums, augmented reality in the museum environment, and the gamification of culture.
Like the rest of the trilogy, “NUBLA, THE GAME” is a video game which uses the art world to strengthen users’ creative skills and aims to use technology to bring the museum environment closer, establishing a dialogue between players and the works of art on display at the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum.
The character in the game is the sole inhabitant of a fantasy world which exists inside the paintings at the museum. This character wants to find out who he is, discover his past and understand his connection to the works of art through different puzzles. These puzzles, which the players try to solve, touch on but never deal explicitly with concepts related to art and conservation, connecting different disciplines by relating visual arts with music or literature from a transversal point of view.
This transversality enriches the narratives present in the game and together with the varied disciplinary origins of the participants creates a complete and complex transmedia project.
The development of these games and other projects such as training courses for developing video games in the museum environment is part of a complex educational process. NUBLA is above all a game, an educational and transmedia universe related to the museum in which the protagonists are a group of young people from different academic backgrounds, because it is they who develop these games.
To date, the development team for the game has involved nearly one hundred young people under the age 25 who are in their final years of university and who, thanks to Nubla, have had the opportunity of putting their knowledge into practice in a professional context by developing a complex project like a video game. The team has included programmers, designers, script writers, illustrators, painters, historians, audiovisual specialists, musicians, writers and many other experts who have left their mark on the game.
In a parallel sense, “NUBLA, THE GAME” is also a reflection on education itself, a reflection about technology and how museums share knowledge with society. It is also an experiment in informal education in these institutions, leaving the more typical history of art issues to one side and placing the emphasis instead on the personal aesthetic experience of the participants in their development and on the end players.
Above all, “NUBLA, THE GAME” is a modern graphic adventure with touches of other genres such as platform games and puzzles which, in contrast to other gaming proposals in cultural institutions, focuses on the pure entertainment of video games, shielding the narrativity of the medium and playability of the product from the influence of the usual discourse in these types of centres. One of the main objectives was to make a video game like any other product in the video game industry in terms of design, development and production but with the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum as the subject matter.
From the methodological point of view, the museum’s Education Department has always placed great emphasis on the fun side of learning. Playing has been in our genes from our very beginnings. Even back in the 1990s playing was a key aspect of our educational projects, activities and resources. These resources included numerous artefacts and toys, which gave us the experience we needed to develop the digital educational artefacts we are now creating in the museum in the early 21st century.
In these recent years we have developed a total of three web games in the digital environment and two gaming projects. In 2010 we embarked on a collaboration with NINTENDO called “ART ACADEMY”, the aim of which was to develop an educational programme for schools unable to visit the museum. This project is enabling us to reinforce our outreach initiatives, using digital technologies and the conceptualisation of the future development of an educational game in a pure video game context.
It was during the second decade of the 21st century that we produced our first digital games for mobile devices (Crononautas, Experiment Now! and A Journey to the West) and embarked on what would become the NUBLA universe, which began with the conceptualisation in 2012 and now, after three more years of development, is starting to produce results.
SCOPE AND REPERCUSSIONS
The game has created enormous expectation among professionals in the Latin American museum sector, helping to strengthen our position as a benchmark in the field of innovation in education in museums. It is currently being studied by other museums as well as the academic world.
It has also had a significant impact on regular visitors to the museum, for whom NUBLA has provided a new, digital means of engaging with the museum. But for us, the game’s most important repercussion has been for people who would not normally visit museums, especially young people and gamers. This is thanks to the pure video game environment that we have created.
A large part of this success is due to the distribution base that SONY has given the game through its Play Store and an efficient marketing system. Consequently, the game has been distributed in Europe since December 2015 and will be released in America in May 2016.
Thanks to Sony’s support, this distribution has allowed for wide dissemination, which has been reinforced with a marketing campaign in more than 200 different media (national television and radio, press, magazines, etc.). Most of all, though, the Thyssen-Bornesmisza has achieved visibility with a sector of the public not used to visiting museums in media specific to the video game industry mainly consumed by those the museum has typically found difficult to reach: young people. Using new means of communication like social networks, these young people have contributed to the game’s success among this sector of the public.
The game has enabled thousands of people to engage with the Thyssen Bornemisza Museum. Tens of thousands have learned about our educational commitment to young people, and we have created a tool that allows remote interaction with the museum, even facilitating virtual, educational and entertaining access to the museum for long-term hospital patients.
NUBLA, AFTER “NUBLA, THE GAME”
NUBLA is an organic and open process which despite having produced a game for tablets such as “ISLANDS OF NUBLA” and a video game such as “NUBLA, ART GAME” is not closed. We are currently immersed in the development of the second game in the trilogy, which we have called “METROPOLIS”, and in an exhibition at the museum about the conceptualisation, design and development processes for these games and the transmedia narrative created around NUBLA.
In this process, the continuous art training of education professionals in museums and other education professionals will add to this “trans-educational” universe.
FIND OUT MORE ABOUT NUBLA
“NUBLA, THE GAME” can be downloaded from the Play Station Network [Link]
“ISLANDS OF NUBLA” can be downloaded from the App Store [Link] and Google Play [Link]
To learn more about the NUBLA project and about “NUBLA, THE GAME” http://www.educathyssen.org/nubla_the_game
Documentary about “NUBLA” https://youtu.be/8SMNF-4UBmI
Teaser for “NUBLA, THE GAME” https://youtu.be/Wo2Swrp8i3o
Teaser for “ISLANDS OF NUBLA” https://youtu.be/uLZ9F384STE
Teaser for “METROPOLIS”
To see demonstrations from players of “NUBLA, THE GAME”