The MUSE Awards Honor BMW Guggenheim Lab Website and Its Urbanology Game

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Urbanology

The BMW Guggenheim Lab website and its interactive game, Urbanology, were recently honored by the 2012 MUSE Awards, presented by the American Association of Museums (AAM) to recognize digital-media achievements and innovation by museums. Urbanology, an online game that invites the public to role-play as city planners, won the Gold MUSE Award for Games and Augmented Reality, while the Lab's website earned an honorable mention in the Online Presence category.

Developed by Local Projects and ZUS, Urbanology is an interactive game in which players confront the challenges and trade-offs of managing a city. By answering a series of yes or no questions—such as whether to raise taxes for schools or to subsidize hotels to encourage tourism—participants create a "future city" that reflects their ideas about city planning. At the end of the game, an algorithm takes into account players' choices and calculates the real-world city that most closely matches their virtual community. Each game is different, and players' decisions often lead to unexpected matches.

In receiving the top honor in Games and Augmented Reality, Urbanology was recognized for the innovative way it engages audiences and uses gaming as an interactive educational tool. Although its game play is intuitive and simple, the game draws on real-world information, including data sets from the United Nations and the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, to encourage people to consider the ways different policies can alter the social and economic vitality of cities. First created as part of an on-site installation at the BMW Guggenheim Lab in New York, the game can now be played anytime at Urbanology Online.

The game is just one of the online projects on the BMW Guggenheim Lab website, which in addition to the honorable mention from the MUSE Awards was recently nominated for a Webby Award. Like its physical counterpart, the website is part urban think tank and part community hub for exploring new concepts and devising creative solutions for city life. Its popular blog, Lab | Log, charts the activities of the mobile lab and regularly invites notable guest writers to examine contemporary urban issues, while the blog's lively community of followers share ideas and thoughts through the site's social-media channels.

Now in its 23rd year, the MUSE Awards are presented by AAM's Media & Technology Standing Professional Committee to honor outstanding achievement in museum media. The award winners, judged across nine areas of content and design, are chosen by a team of more than 130 media and museum professionals from around the world.