Beestenbende (Animal Mayhem) is a game for families visiting the cabinet of curiosities at University Museum Utrecht. Players are invited to look at the objects on display through the eyes of scientists. In the game, a number of animals in the cabinet are confused about the animal group they belong to. For example, a flying squirrel thinks it is a bird, because it can fly. Players divide into two teams and collect evidence by taking photos of animal features, such as paws, feathers and so on. They label and subsequently show the evidence to the animal, in the hopes of convincing it of its true nature. The team with the best evidence wins.
Beestenbende is an applied game with real results. The museum wanted to deepen the engagement of visitors with the cabinet. Evidence from playtests suggests this is certainly the case: Players spend an average of 30 minutes in the cabinet, where before they would make a brief round of the displays. They focus on and think about individual objects separately and in relation to others. Players discuss what they see with each other, and share an enjoyable experience.
Other notable aspects of the game include the fact that the museum’s collection is fully part of it, but did not require any adaptation. The game also explicitly supports intergenerational play, adults’ knowledge is compensated for by children’s perceptiveness.
Beestenbende was developed as part of TFI’s (Task Force Innovation Utrecht Region) SEA (Smart Experience Actuator) program. The aim of SEA is to research and develop new playful solutions for various domains, by facilitating collaboration between game studios and organizations from these domains. Beestenbende is the first pilot for the heritage domain.