‘Father and Son’: The hit time travel video game produced by a museum in Naples

A video game based on the collection of an Italian museum proves to be a huge hit.

Father and Son is the first video game produced by a museum.

Considered the first of its kind, players and visitors to the National Archaeological Museum of Naples (HUSBAND), Italy, take a digital journey through time.

**Father and Son** players help a character, Michael, find the father he never met and navigate through key historical events – from the volcanic eruption in Pompeii to the Bourbon era to modern-day Naples. The personal quest becomes a universal, timeless adventure.

The game aims to be a new way of storytelling, interweaving the main character’s story with the museum’s collections. Players make decisions along the way that affect the outcome of the game.

MANN’s director Paolo Giulierini came up with the idea. He wants to open the museum to new art forms.

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“So it’s no longer a museum viewed from the perspective of classical painting, sculpture and architecture, but also of all those art forms that are considered innovative and capable of attracting ever-larger audiences,” he explains.

A “suspicious” call

To develop the game, the museum approached game designer Fabio Viola, who initially didn’t take their request seriously.

“I thought it was a joke because since I originally work with video games I had never worked with cultural institutions before,” he says.

“This collaboration was kind of suspicious because video games are usually seen as a hobby, something frivolous and pastime, while museums are usually a symbol of what’s serious in life.”

Viola designed the game in which Michael moves through different ages, taking clues from artworks that are part of the MANN collections to travel through time.

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And what players see in-game is deliberately not a copy of anything seen in the real museum.

“We must imagine a video game that, even if paid for and commissioned by a cultural institution, is not a submissive repetition of what is in the museum, because throughout the game we encounter only three works of art that act as triggers for that serve as part of the journey through time,” says Viola.

A direct hit

The game has already reached over 5 million downloads.

As an added bonus, those who play it while in the actual museum can unlock additional content via geolocation.

“I think it’s a really interesting way to experience the museum, I think it’s quite unique, I’ve never seen anything like it,” says Dan, a tourist from London, England.

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“I like the way you can interact with the environment and go back in time to different eras like when it was first opened or when the artifacts were first made, which I think is really extraordinary.”

Israeli tourist Sagi Cohen also enjoyed the experience.

“You choose the timeline you change, it’s really good that you can see what it was and what it is now.”

And what do we learn from the time jump quest? That grudges aren’t worth holding on to, especially because there will come a time when only memories will remain — even if loved ones often don’t.

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