On June 19th we are celebrating games and museums with an Animal Crossing live stream! We will join palaeontologist Rob Theodore and game designer Elizabeth Simoens as they explore her island museum. Before we jump in the sea-plane (or join the live stream on youtube/twitch), let’s hear from Rob and Elizabeth about how this project came to be!
Who are you?
RT - I’m Rob Theodore and I’m the exhibitions and display coordinator at the Sedgwick Museum of Earth Sciences. My background is in palaeontology but moved straight into museums after university. I’ve worked at the Sedgwick for over 13 years, being involved in everything from cataloguing specimens and curation to exhibitions and public engagement. I was only supposed to be here for 6 months!
Z - I’m Elizabeth Simoens, also known as Ziz, and I’m a game designer. My background is actually in classical ballet but partway through I realized that I could choreograph games instead of dance and I’ve not turned back yet. I tend to focus on designing games that incorporate both digital and physical play, often involving unusual technology. I have made games for museums, streets, computers, phones, and even raves!
How do you know each other?
RT - Ziz and I met in 2017 as part of a project - Cambridge Codebreakers: The Last Secret. I was the main contact for the Sedgwick for the project, and the follow-up, Operation Survival.
Z - Yep! Rob’s office in the Sedgwick is super easy to access, his door is open to the museum galleries. This meant that I could just pop in and say hello! (and then ask a bazillion questions.) I learned so much from Rob about the specimens in the museum that I then got to pass on to the players! In puzzle form, of course, they had to work for their education.
So what is Animal Crossing? And where has this project come from?
Z - Animal Crossing has basically taken over my life for the last few months. I have fully embraced the desert island getaway life! Especially since my island (and everyone else’s) has its very own museum, complete with fossil, bug, fish, and art wings. I’ve spent so many hours digging up fossils, fishing, creating furniture, decorating my house, and chatting to my adorable villagers.
RT - and sending me all of your fossil finds!
Z - Absolutely! Who else am I going to marvel at the Opthamalosaurus’ big eyes with? Or ask what is the strange spiral tooth fossil that I found?
RT We quickly began talking about turning our exchanges into a live stream. Working with Ziz on the live stream has expanded from two friends having fun to a professional collaboration!
How’s this going to work?
Z - So this will be a live stream which is later released as a pre-recorded video. I will be showing Rob around my island museum and I am so excited to ask him all the questions.
RT - With the museum closed, we’ve been looking for opportunities to engage with our audiences digitally. Most of our content has been orientated around our core family audiences but the live stream is a chance for us to broaden our offer and reach new groups of people. A high percentage of Animal Crossing players are in their 20s and 30s, an age range that can be challenging for museums to feel relevant too.
RT - Thank yous go to the rest of the Sedgwick team for embracing the Animal Crossing idea and Rich White at University of Cambridge Museums for his support with the comms. Biggest thanks go to Ziz for having the talent, ambition and determination to make this happen.
Z - I want to thank Jo Summers, Nick Murray, and Marie Foulston who did the Now Play This Animal Crossing streams for lending their knowledge and hardware for this project! Also, to Game Dev London team and Rich White from the University of Cambridge Museums for being on board with our crazy idea and helping make it a reality. Finally, to Rob, for never tiring of my endless questions!
Where to learn more?
Learn more about @GameDevLondon by clicking about here on this very site!
The Sedgwick Museum may be temporarily closed, but you can explore the website sedgwickmuseum.org and follow us on Instagram instagram.com/sedgwickmuseum Twitter @SedgwickMuseum and Facebook facebook.com/sedgwickmuseum