Getty Travelers

#GettyJam 2016

Last weekend, February 27-28 2016, me and other USC students had the chance to camp out at the Getty for a 32-hour game jam. Yes, literally a night at the museum kind of thing!


The intersection of history and museum studies with interactive media and games is something I have always been interested in (see my undergrad senior project, From Dresden to Damascus), and actually what drove me to this MFA Program. I’ve been looking forward to the #GettyJam since I actually applied for USC, so you can imagine how overly excited I was when that weekend finally arrived …


 As we arrived with our sleeping bags and gadgets, we were given some time to settle in our headquarters, a large conference room with the most amazing views of LA. Around 10.30AM, Rebecca Edwards, from the Getty’s Education Department, led us through a walkthrough of the Museum, giving us some great insights into paintings, sculptures, decorative arts, the architecture and, of course, the breathtaking views of The Getty.

As we came to the end of the walking tour, this year’s challenge was revealed: “The typical museum visitor looks at a single work of art for less than 30 seconds. Utilizing a specific work of art on display at the Getty Center, create a playful experience that helps the player discover something interesting about the art that she or he might have missed in a 30-second look.”


And so the #GettyJam officially began!

I originally wanted to work solo, so I could put my programming skills in practice and … challenge myself, I guess! I started my MFA program at USC last semester with no prior coding experience, and so this semester I’ve been putting a lot of energy on mastering Unity and creating rapid, interactive prototypes (incl. Arduino!).  Eventually I ended up joining three other classmates, Atwood, Xian and Xiao. I thought I could learn a lot from them, and maybe do something I had never done before, like … taking up the producer role! I learned a lot about production management & working practices while working alongside Richard Lemarchand on this year’s Global Game Jam, and I thought this could be a great opportunity to put my observations to practice, and develop further my leadership skills. So this was a super valuable learning experience, thanks yo my very talented and hard-working team members!  


Our Approach


After taking a second tour around the museum, we all seemed to be attracted to the French Neoclassical Era, and all the beautiful decorative arts and furniture in the collection. We were particularly interested in some of the furniture, more specifically the late 1700’s secrétaires, like this one hereThese mysterious writing desks are beautifully crafted, but their function was something that puzzled us. We wanted to open them, see what was kept inside, understand their function and the context in which they were used in. It was also important for us to combine our interactive, digital experience with the physical exploration in the museum environment itself. We then spoke about different ways to approach the challenge. Some of us wanted to experiment with augmented reality, others with narrative … we decided to combine our interests and make something that would be helpful (and rewarding!) for each team member.


And so we came up with #GettyTravelers, an AR, mobile narrative experience! Along with Dareek, a not-so-successful time traveler, you are able to explore The Getty’s Collections in a way playful way, that could be tailored to all audiences alike.


#GettyJam 2016 | #GettyTravelers from Gabriela Purri R. Gomes on Vimeo.


In this 32-hour prototype, our time traveler is stuck in the late 1700’s, and we must help him retrieve an important object his time machine has sent to another dimension. This game is all about collaborating with our little time traveler (and, as we envisioned, also with your friends in an online environment!), who will bring you along his journey through time.  Through an engaging narrative, the idea is to allow the player to understand not just the function of the objects that are exhibited at the museum, but also their historical context, any hidden symbolism, and how objects in an exhibition might relate to each other. We also wanted to encourage conversation about how art is viewed.



AR Component




We’re obviously proud of how much we could get done in so little time, but here are the things that we could potentially improve in a next iteration:

  • Sound – Xiao worked on SFX for this prototype, which unfortunately is not present in the gameplay video. But we think a voice-over would have worked better than all the dialogue text, giving a little more life to our character as well.
  • Narrative – One of our greatest challenges, from my perspective. Narrative is hard. And time-consuming. I love the research process before writings things on paper, but when we have so little time, it’s about getting your ideas across in the most concise, clear way. It feels a little dry as it is now, but I think it’s all about spending more time on research  & development, and experimenting more with the physical + digital intersections of the story.



This was only my second game jam, so here are my (personal) takeaways, to keep in mind for future ones:

  • Learning to let go is important. PRIORITIZE. Listen to your creative instinct, but learn to let go whenever things are holding you back for too long.
  • That said, don’t give up too soon when something is not going as you planned. I found that taking small breaks when you’re overly frustrated is CRUCIAL. Talk to other people, other groups. Go for a walk outside. Take a short nap. Listen to the birds. Get out there.
  • Narrative is hard. Scope realistically.
  • For my next game jam, I would like to spend more time developing mechanics, rather than spending most hours on producing tones of content.
  • Don’t be afraid to experiment with something new. A different role, a new tool, a new style. It’s all valid. And it’s a great environment to do so. And also, and this is just my own humble opinion, don’t put so much pressure on yourself. Just enough to keep you and your team motivated. Establish your goals before starting the project, to make sure everyone is in the same page.


Special thanks to The Getty & USC Games for this amazing opportunity!


And congrats to all the winners and jammers! Some mind-blowing work!


Special shout out to my classmates Georg Luif & Yiwen Dai who won 2nd Place with their AWESOME game ‘A Walk at Dusk’ !


No Comments

Post a Comment