April 11, 2012  |  Events & Programs, Family & Kids
Come Out and Play: Material Bingo and Games for Learning

Games are a hot topic in museums at the moment. Yet the intersection between art and games is old news. From Marcel Duchamp’s chess obsession to Surrealist parlor games in the 1920s (see: Exquisite Corpse), to more contemporary projects like the hacked video game environments of artist/modder Cory Arcangel, artists have long explored the potential of games to shape social spaces, explore the makeup (and breakdown) of systems, and inject their practice with playfulness, surprises, and interactivity.

Museum educators have jumped into the sandbox, too, as ideas of learning and public engagement have slowly shifted from one-way teaching models like lectures to something more dynamic, responsive, and co-creative.

Without a doubt, museums and games share natural affinities: museums are free-choice learning environments that seek to engage people with complex ideas and challenging objects, in ways that are enjoyable and meaningful. Games are fun vehicles for building problem-solving skills and critical thinking.

Successful museum education experiences encourage multiple interpretations of works of art. Well-designed games allow for multiple strategies and ways to play.

Material Bingo at MoMA

So we’ve recognized the value of play and games for learning, but what have we been doing? MoMA’s Department of Education has been testing the waters in increments. Last year, we partnered with seasoned game experts at the Institute of Play to develop a 10-week hands-on summer program where teens explored the intersection of game design and art making. Recently, we launched Material Bingo, the first in a series of MoMA Games for learning, looking, and engaging with the Museum’s collection and architecture.

Material Bingo is an image-based, close-looking game designed for visitors of all ages, including families, adults, or anyone with keen eyes and an exploratory spirit. It takes as its starting point the familiar game of bingo, but instead of numbers, a player is presented with pictures of materials ranging from canvas, oil paints, and wood—to more “unconventional” materials used by artists, like plastic, fur and hair, and dirt. Printed on the back are instructions (in nine languages):

Look closely at the artworks in the galleries. What materials are they made of? Your goal is to find the materials pictured in the squares. When you find one, shut the window over that square. The first player to make a row of five closed squares across, up, down, or diagonally, wins the game!

Material Bingo is an experiment in how games can be used for learning and engagement at MoMA. One goal is simply to convey, with one glance at the bingo board, the vast possibilities for art-making materials in the world around us. Another goal was to transform the entire Museum into a game board—an arena of discovery (and playful competition) as visitors fan out in search of art and design objects made from these materials. It can be played alone or in groups. Regardless of who wins the round, all players are rewarded with their choice of three Material Bingo temporary tattoos.

Material Bingo is available for check-out at the second floor volunteer information desk and in the Material Lab on the first floor of the Lewis B. and Dorothy Cullman Education and Research Building. Come out and play!

Want to learn more about how art and games play together? Don’t miss the Contemporary Art Forum: Critical Play—The Game as an Art Forum, May 17–18 at MoMA. Participants include artists, curators, game designers, and scholars from around the globe. Track Twitter hashtag #MoMACriticalPlay now to get late-breaking updates and join the conversation.


Whenever i go to have a little knowledge in the museum, i see there, many games and other different types of enjoyable activity are paid more attention there as in this above post written.

People have played games for over 5000, years and more.A very relaxing way to learn.Museums are a fantastic way to learn.When I take school children to the museum I think they learn much faster when they’re playing,

I would like a template or Material Bingo card to use in my local state art gallery. It is a great idea and links in with Science and our Investigation Units. Can you send me one? I tried out “Everyones an Art Critic” today on an excursion to the Art Gallery and it was fun. I took it in another direction back at school with bow ties and the student made a comic with iPads.

Dear Kate, thanks for your interest. I’ve just followed up with you via e-mail. Best, Stephanie

Dear Stephanie, I would really like a template for Material Bingo to explore ways to incorporate it into our Art Outreach practice in Singapore. Thanks!

Leave a Comment

* required information

E-mail address*

Your comments*

Spam check*
Cri_151170 Please enter the text in the image.