Game Design,  Travel

visiting trickeye museum seoul: directions, tips, and review

Styled as the “world’s first AR museum”, Trickeye Museum Seoul is more a gallery of rather odd larger-than-life paintings styled for optical illusions in which the guest can take a photo as part of the scene.  Even the “AR” label is slightly over-promising – all it means is that there’s an app that provides filter-like animations over images.

In this blog post, I will review the Trickeye Museum in Hongdae and provide tips for your visit.  I will also discuss the museum’s design and how that relates to their target audience.

Key Information for Visiting Trickeye Museum in Seoul

  • Location: #B2 Seogyo Plaza 20 Hongikro 3gil, Mapogu, Seoul in Hongdae
  • Directions: Take the green line metro train to Hongik University station, exit 9 and walk about 10 minutes.  The location is below ground level in a shopping district.
  • Hours: 9am – 9pm (may vary)
  • Ticket price: KRW 15,000, available online or on location (as of posting)
  • Food: There’s this “print your photo on a latte”/bubble tea place called CaFACE in the museum lobby, which seemed gimmicky and overpriced (KRW 6,000-8,000 per drink on average).  I suggest finding food/drinks nearby before or after your visit.
  • Before you go:
    • Download the XR Museum app on your phone for the AR effects
    • Bring a friend to help you take photos (suggested minimum group of 3)
    • At maximum, bring a small bag or purse.  There are lockers but these cost a few KRW in change, and it’s best to go hands free since you want to be posing and taking photos
  • Other details:
    • Trickeye Museum is in the same building as Ice Museum and LOVE Museum.  Ice Museum admission is included in Trickeye Museum price (though it’s small and lacklustre, basically an oversized freezer with kids screaming and sliding down an ice slide), while LOVE Museum will run you another KRW 8,000 if you decide to visit it as well

Trivkeye Museum Seoul: A Game Designer’s Review

The Trickeye Museum is catered to people who want to take photos of themselves in humorous and ridiculous situations to share with their friends on social media.  If you fit that bill, Trickeye Museum is designed for you.

The Seoul location presents a variety of different situations from the dreamy (sitting on a moon) to the dramatic (being swallowed by a sea monster) to the goth (having wings as bats circle you) to the whimsical (being in Renaissance-style paintings) to the crude (I won’t go there).  Unfortunately, the sets are sometimes dingy and worn out, or with parts missing.  Some of the items are in need of refurbishment, but it shouldn’t stop the average attendee from having fun.

Image from: Trickeye Museum.

Tips for Visiting Trickeye Museum Seoul

It’s best to visit with at least three people, since there are several scenes that work better with more than one person and of course, you need a camera person who is willing to be patient and catch you in your best light.  As a result, visiting Trickeye Museum can be classed as a social event, something like going to play mini-golf, so it could be a fun thing to do with friends if you have the right people.

One major drawback is that the scenes are often quite close together so on crowded days it’s likely you’ll have to wait for the more popular scenes and you’ll also have strangers in the background of your photo, which ruins the illusions.  With more people around, Trickeye’s AR app also tends to malfunction because it identifies other people in your shot and misbehaves.

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However, even for someone squarely in Trickeye’s core demographic, I would say that visiting one museum once is enough, although there are many locations around the world.  It’s more the novelty you pay for, like Madame Tussaud’s, but not necessarily worth a return visit for the KRW 15,000 ticket price (which I did find a little expensive for what I got).

Although the Seoul location is the original, I can’t imagine its global iterations (in Las Vegas, Thailand and Singapore to name a few) being much different, so a second visit is worthwhile only if you have a real ham of a friend or a group that just wants weird photos together for some occasion.

What to do When It’s Just Not for You (and You’ve Already Paid Admission)

When I arrived at Trickeye Museum in Seoul, I instantly knew it wasn’t for me.  I’d sooner take pictures of interesting architecture, famous monuments, or scenes in nature, than pose in made-up scenarios for a laugh.  And it’s not in my nature to constantly post photos of myself for all my friends to see on social media.  So, alas, I’m in the wrong demographic for Trickeye Museum.

But here’s the catch: as a game designer, you often have to design for a target audience that is not yourself.  And so as I set foot into the first of a series of galleries featuring over-the-top scenes, I decided to pretend.

I did my best to be a complete ham.  I took photos in the incredulous setups.  I imagined I had a giant network of friends with whom I would delight in sharing my photos.  I tried to understand what worked about this entertainment experience for its target audience.

And to my surprise, I had a blast.

Image from: Trickeye Museum.

This technique is useful for both the designer and the audience.

Designers, Pretend to be Your Target Audience

It’s important to design any experience, whether physical or virtual, with a target audience in mind.

As a designer, it is imperative that you step into the shoes of your target audience.  For example, if you’re designing a game for 7-year-olds, it’s not enough to just talk to kids, or have them playtest your game.  For best results, you have to play your game as if you are a 7-year-old.

Likewise, if you’re designing a game for the visually impaired, or a training module for firefighters, or a theme park for fans of Dungeons and Dragons, you have to do your best to get into the physical, mental and emotional mindset of that target audience.  This is not always easy, and doing it without judgment or prejudice is a skill that needs to be honed over a lot of practice.

One of my favourite anecdotes about Walt Disney inspecting the building progress at Disneyland is that he would often crouch down to look at the park from the height of a child.  Even today, installations in the Disney Parks reflect this care towards his understanding of his target audience.  For example, the Cinderella fountain statue near the castle at Walt Disney World reveals that she is smiling and aligns the crown painted on the wall behind her exactly on her head, only when viewed from a child’s perspective.

In this statue, Cinderella is smiling and the painted crown is on her head if viewed from a child’s perspective. Image from: Disney Parks Blog.

Players, Pretend to be the Designer’s Target Audience

From a player/guest/audience member’s point of view, learning to play as the target audience can not only reveal the designers’ intent but also greatly increase your enjoyment of an experience that’s not up your alley.

Next time you end up at a romantic movie on a date when you hate rom-coms, pretend to be someone who likes sappy films.  Or if you’re forced to go to a party with friends who are all about it, try to imitate those friends.  Genuinely trying to do so (with an open mind and no judgment) may surprise you and end up with you thoroughly enjoying it like I did at Trickeye Museum.

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There’s some precedent for this “fake it til you make it” attitude, even if taken with a grain of salt.  Some studies on body language have shown that putting your body certain physical positions can have an impact on your emotions.  Smiling has been claimed to boost happiness1 and reduce heart rate2.

Since the 1990s, there have been “laughing clubs” and “laughter yoga” sessions where people sit around and laugh together to relieve stress3.  And let’s not forget Amy Cuddy’s 2012 TED Talk that made its rounds in pop science about “power poses” that boost confidence4 (later discredited, and now perhaps redeemed?).

Power pose by Amy Cuddy at PopTech 2011” (CC BY 2.0) by Erik (HASH) Hersman

For game design theorists, this reminds me of Jason VandenBerghe’s GDC 2013 talk that encourages designers to play games based on the “5 Domains of Play” that were based on psychology’s “Big 5”5.  He recommends playing games as different characters, including Yoda, Austin Powers and Sherlock Holmes.  He also describes games that are suited to different types of players.  The video of his talk is worth a view or a listen if you’re thinking about how to understand a target audience.

Game Designers Should Find Value in All Experiences, Even Ones Not Meant for Them

As for Trickeye Museum, I’m personally unlikely to return, but I’m glad that I had the experience.  I think it’s important as a game designer (and critic) to experience things that run the gamut from good to bad, and from what I like to what I hate.  And rather than sulking my way through something that obviously wasn’t for me, I’m happy that I was able to try and understand the experience as it was intended — for its target audience.

References Cited

  1. Wenner, Melinda. “Smile! It Could Make You Happier.” Scientific American Mind 20.5 (2009): 14-15. Web. 23 February 2020.
  2. Kraft, Tara L. and Sarah D. Pressman. “Grin and Bear It: The Influence of Manipulated Facial Expression on the Stress Response.” Pyschological Science 23.11 (2012): 1372-1378. Web. 23 February 2020.
  3. Strean, William B. “Laughter prescription.” Canadian Family Physician 55.10 (2012): 965-967. Web. 23 February 2020.
  4. Cuddy, Amy. “Your body language may shape who you are” TEDGlobal. June 2012. Lecture.
  5. VandenBerghe, Jason. “Applying the 5 Domains of Play: Acting Like Players.” Game Developers Conference 2013. GDC Vault, March 2013. Web. 23 February 2020.