MEMENTOES (immersive games for museums as vehicles to engage visitors in empathetic responses) is a Horizon Europe-funded project which brings together museums and video game developers in an effort to bring the narrative, educational, and empathy-building techniques used in museums to a wider audience using a ubiquitous modern technology: video games. The project will run for three years, from October 2022 to September 2025, and is funded by the European Commission under call HORIZON-CL2-2021-HERITAGE-01 (“Games and culture shaping our society”).
Studies1 show that museums use immersive storytelling techniques to engage visitors with historical events, build empathy with the people who lived through them, and draw parallels to similar issues in the world today. However, the power of museums as places of memory, culture, and education is limited by accessibility issues, as only people who live near them or can afford to travel can visit the exhibits.
Video games employ many of the same affective practices as museums, immersing players in different contexts and allowing them to inhabit the perspectives of different groups. Studies2 show that games set in the past can trigger long-lasting changes in players’ attitudes about historical events and people, reflecting their efficacy as an educational and empathy-building tool. Video games have the potential to support the goals of museums and counter the accessibility issue, but no framework guiding collaboration between game developers and cultural heritage institutions exists.
The MEMENTOES Approach
The MEMENTOES project seeks to respond to these challenges by identifying the design philosophies used in historical museums and embedding them in video games using state-of the-art technology. The project pairs three museums with three game developers (read more about these partnerships) to create games that are embedded with educational and empathy-building objectives without undermining their entertainment value or commercial viability. Players will inhabit the perspectives of people who lived through historical events, facilitating an emotional connection with different communities. The games will support the mission of each museum, commemorating the past and encouraging connections with the present.
MEMENTOES combines cutting-edge technologies with stable, well-understood game development approaches to produce games which meet the project’s goals and are accessible to players with different needs. The main objectives are as follows:
- Combine museum design philosophies with storytelling techniques used in commercial video games to develop historical understanding and empathy through play.
MEMENTOES seeks to foster a common understanding between game developers and cultural heritage institutions and develop guidelines for embedding historical memories into commercially viable narrative games. Throughout the project, co-creation workshops will stimulate collaborations between museum and game developer partners and result in a set of guidelines for future partnerships. This will attract larger audiences for museums and demonstrate routes by which game developers can produce games with both social value and market potential.
- Develop three digital games exploring different instances of historical injustice and their ties to modern society, based on archival materials and testimonials stewarded by each museum.
Each MEMENTOES game will allow players to explore the memories and experiences of real people. The games will focus on storytelling and exploration, replicating the atmosphere and sense of place cultivated by each museum, using a playful approach to stimulate discussions about the past and present. Throughout the duration of the project, partners will collect evidence on the most effective techniques to facilitate emotion and empathy while communicating past injustices and preserving the memories of individuals within the games.
- Contribute to the formation of a cluster of other EU-funded projects on digital cultural heritage.
MEMENTOES will contribute to the cluster’s work by providing evidence on the efficacy of games as tools to engage museum visitors and by issuing best practices and guidelines for collaborations between museums and game developers, which will support the replication of similar work in the future. MEMENTOES will monitor the activities of other projects in the cluster and seek to collaborate via knowledge sharing and joint participation in events and initiatives.
Meet the Team
The MEMENTOES project includes three research institutions, two game development organisations and three museums. Ethniko Kentro Erevnas Kai Technologikis Anaptyxis (CERTH), is the project coordinator, and leads tasks on software development and image processing techniques. The Foundation for Research and Technology – Hellas (FORTH) is the technical manager of the project and has undertaken the development of one of the three video games. Trilateral Research contributes to dissemination, exploitation, and ethics. The game development organisations involved in the project are Charles Games and Causa Creations Interactive Media. The museum partners are Le Bois Du Cazier, the War Childhood Museum, and Gulag.cz.
 Laurajane Smith and Gary Campbell, “The Elephant in the Room: Heritage, Affect, and Emotion,” in A Companion to Heritage Studies, eds. William Logan, Máiréad Nic Craith, and Ullrich Kockel, (Chichester: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2015), 443-460. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/299924366_The_Elephant_in_the_Room. DOI:10.1002/9781118486634.ch30
 Lukáš Kolek, Cyril Bron, Vit Šisler, and Patricia Martinkova, “Can video games change attitudes towards history? Results from a laboratory experiment measuring short- and long-term effects,” Journal of Computer Assisted Learning 37, no. 5 (October 2021): 1348-1369. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/353715616_Can_video_games_change_attitudes_towards_history_Results_from_a_laboratory_experiment_measuring_short-_and_long-term_effects. DOI:110.1111/jcal.12575