Alternate-Reality Games in Casual Gaming Environments: Exploratory Summative Evaluation of the PHEON Game on Facebook by the Smithsonian American Art Museum

February 1st, 2012 | EVALUATION

The Luce Foundation Center (LFC) of the Smithsonian American Art Museum (hearafter, American Art or the Museum) ran an alternate reality game (ARG) titled PHEON as an online game application on Facebook from October 2010 through September 2011. The game built upon the success of the Museum's previous ARG, Ghosts of a Chance (GOAC; Goodlander, 2009). In the Facebook game, players accepted missions inspired by the Museum's collections, completed them in the real world, and uploaded evidence in order to win points and progress through the game. Despite an established audience of GOAC players, significant press, and a more sophisticated game design, PHEON struggled to attract participants from the outset. Overall, only 865 people allowed the application to access their Facebook page, 675 people completed registration, and merely 68 of those completed a mission. The online version of GOAC, in contrast, attracted 6,100 unique visitors to its website in just four months , generating more energy and participation than PHEON. Since PHEON was nearing completion, the Luce Foundation Center staff decided to conduct an exploratory summative evaluation to investigate why people had played the game and what their experiences were like, and what barriers or perceptions existed for people who had not played the game. This report presents findings from an exploratory summative evaluation of the online version of PHEON conducted by UXR Consulting, Inc., ( from May to August 2011. A web-based survey (Appendix A) was developed and deployed to connect with those who had played the game online. The survey also targeted non-players, individuals who did not play the game, but whose responses might provide insights into the challenges that the game faced in adopting users. The appendix of this report includes the survey used in this study.



Team Members

Jes A. Koepfler, Evaluator, UXR Consulting
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Contributor

Related URLs


Audience: Adults | Evaluators | General Public | Museum | ISE Professionals | Youth | Teen (up to 17)
Discipline: Education and learning science | General STEM
Resource Type: Evaluation Reports | Research and Evaluation Instruments | Summative | Survey
Environment Type: Games | Simulations | Interactives | Media and Technology | Websites | Mobile Apps | Online Media