S.E.C.R.E.T. is an immersive story-driven scavenger hunt experience at the Children’s Museum of Houston (CMH). Leveraging CMH’s existing exhibits while adding new multi-media set pieces that blend digital and physical interactions, S.E.C.R.E.T. is deeply woven into the museum landscape, welcoming guests into a new world of high tech espionage, rich characters, and engaging gameplay.
Guests assume the roles of S.E.C.R.E.T. Agents, completing missions to thwart the Ridiculously Intelligent Villainous Agent League (R.I.V.A.L.). During the six 60-90 minute missions, S.E.C.R.E.T. Agents must use critical thinking, problem solving, observation, orienteering, and many other essential STEM-related concepts and skills to uncover clues and solve puzzles to thwart R.I.V.A.L.
S.E.C.R.E.T. opened in November 2015 at the Children’s Museum of Houston. Since opening, CMH has reported that approximately 20-30 percent of the museum’s visitors in the target demographic have signed up as Agents!
During the six total S.E.C.R.E.T. missions, Agents use their Gadget, Mission Book, and Codex to travel throughout the museum, engaging with over 15 different physical and digital installations. Missions may ask Agents to hack into R.I.V.A.L. computers, decode hidden messages, rendez-vous with Field Agents (CMH Staff), follow invisible trails, and even crawl through a laser maze to deactivate devices. Exploration of the Museum is key, as many clues are hidden in plain sight and can only be activated by Agents with a Codex.
Agents can return to the museum again and again with their Codex to access their Agent Profile and see their past missions and badges, or sign up for a new mission to continue protecting CMH.
Unique interactions and strong immersion – By weaving CMH’s existing exhibits into S.E.C.R.E.T.’s lore and interactions, the experience becomes an immersive activity that adds an exclusive, adventure-driven layer to a typical museum visit. S.E.C.R.E.T. showcases the strength of blended physical and digital interactive components. Each interaction features a variety of physical and digital games, puzzles, and clues to create a compelling and engaging mission, while keeping phones in pockets. The backend technology tracks Agent progress over multiple visits and sorts Agents evenly throughout the six missions to prevent bottlenecks.
Takeaways and Persistence – Each mission provides Agents with a specific physical gadget, ranging from a USB stick or UV light to a Spy Scope. The Codex, an RFID wristband, gives Agents exclusive access to the interactives, all while tracking their progress over multiple visits. This allows the characters in-game to know which missions Agents have completed, and can assign agents more advanced missions based on their past progress. Agents are also featured on the Agent Activity board in HQ, showing off their progress and rank to other Agents.
Teamwork – S.E.C.R.E.T. shines as a solo or a shared experience: Co-play between parents and children is encouraged, or guests are can sign up with their siblings or friends. Each guest can fulfill a specialized role on the mission, such as the gadgeteer (who uses the gadget), the analyst (Mission Booklet decoder), or the hacker (bearer of the Codex).