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"Don’t Freeze! Survive the Ethics of a Mixed Reality Escape Room" by Sherry Jones and Stephen Getter


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Oct. 7, 2016 - We designed and ran a mixed reality escape room inside the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, CA, for the 2016 Intentional Play Summit. The mixed reality escape room is designed to teach philosophy and ethics theories, and its narrative is loosely based on Orwell's 1984.

Intentional Play Summit

This is the accompanying summit presentation that explains our game design logic and methods for creating this experience.

Published in: Design
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"Don’t Freeze! Survive the Ethics of a Mixed Reality Escape Room" by Sherry Jones and Stephen Getter

  1. 1. Sherry Jones & Stephen Getter Intentional Play Summit Computer History Museum Oct. 7, 2016 Don’t Freeze! Survive the Ethics of a Mixed Reality Escape Room
  2. 2. HELLO! I am Sherry Jones. Co-Founder of Metagame Book Club. Philosophy Instructor + Game Design SME at Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design. Find me on Twitter @autnes. 2
  3. 3. HELLO! I am Stephen Getter. Education and Technology Innovation Consultant. Game Designer. Find me on WeChat @stephengetter. 3
  4. 4. 1. So, What Just Happened in This Room? 4
  5. 5. You Were Trapped in a Freezer! You have just experienced being trapped inside a freezer (escape room), set in the alternate reality of Orwell’s 1984. 5
  6. 6. You Were Being Watched . . . Inside the freezer are telescreens that serve as the seeing eyes of Big Brother, monitoring your every move. 6
  7. 7. You Were Being Tested . . . The Game Mole tested your ethics position, to check whether or not your allegiance was to Big Brother. 7
  8. 8. So, Did You Escape the Freezer? We hope you found the last code to unlock the freezer door to freedom. If not, you must have followed the ethics of Big Brother. You can’t hear us anyway. You are an unperson. 8
  9. 9. 2. What is a Mixed Reality Escape Room? 9
  10. 10. “A mixed reality (MR) takes place at the liminal between real and virtual worlds, in which physical and virtual objects coexist or converge as phygitals. A mixed reality escape room refers to a real-virtual liminal space that traps the player within, using a combination of physical and virtual contraptions and puzzles. -- Sherry Jones 10
  11. 11. “An alternate reality narrative usually serves to bridge the physical and virtual context layers of a mixed reality escape room. Essentially, the alternate reality narrative provides the player a reason for the room’s existence, and the clues as the means of escape. -- Sherry Jones 11
  12. 12. 2. Don’t Freeze Escape Room: Orwell’s Utilitarian Thought Experiment in a Mixed Reality. 12
  13. 13. 1984 : A Utilitarian Nightmare. Utilitarianism is a normative ethics theory that society should maximize the utility (happiness) of the majority. For Orwell, utilitarianism can lead to the suffering of the individual. 13
  14. 14. Suffering of the Individual. Utilitarianism is a form of consequentialism, an ethics theory that suggests the end justifies the means. 1984 shows how suffering can be justified for maintaining the “happiness” of the majority. 14
  15. 15. 4. Intertextual Mixed Reality Design. 15
  16. 16. Elements for Creating a Cohesive, MR Escape Room. Theory ◈ Utilitarianism. Narrative ◈ Situates players and the escape room in the alternate reality of 1984. ◈ Serves as a cohesive element for connecting all design possibilities. Physical Objects ◈ Fliers. ◈ Letters. ◈ Clue Cards. ◈ Books. ◈ Telescreens. 16 Virtual Objects ◈ Winston, the Ethics AI. ◈ Cards in the Matching Game. ◈ Video Transmission. ◈ Virtual Spaces. Characters ◈ Big Brother. ◈ The Game Mole. ◈ Secret Agents. ◈ The Decipher. ◈ The Prisoners (played by the players). Puzzles + Logic ◈ 3 Puzzles = 1) Ethics AI; 2) The Matching Game; 3) Flier Game. ◈ Solve puzzles #1 + #2 in order to solve #3. ◈ Exit Code (recalls theory).
  17. 17. 17 “Don’t Freeze: Video Introduction” (with The Game Mole)
  18. 18. 5. Escape Room Pedagogy in Higher Education. 18
  19. 19. Converting College Classrooms Into Escape Rooms ◈ Philosophy Escape Rooms - Sherry Jones has created and assigned escape rooms in her philosophy and rhetoric college courses. ◈ Assessment - The escape rooms were assigned as a form of assessment of students’ comprehension of philosophical theories, and to inspire students to consider possible research inquiries. ◈ Evaluation - After playing in the escape room (classroom), students would identify the philosophical theory in play, and evaluate Orwell’s vision of a totalitarian 1984. ◈ Research - Students would write a research paper based on the concepts they encountered during the gameplay. ◈ Design - Students would co-design pieces of a future escape room. 19
  20. 20. Place your screenshot here 20 THE TELESCREEN ASKS . . .
  21. 21. 21 THANKS! Sherry Jones is on Twitter @autnes. Stephen Getter is on WeChat at stephengetter. Access slides at
  22. 22. CREDITS Special thanks to all the people who made and released these awesome resources for free: ◈ Presentation template by SlidesCarnival ◈ Photographs by Unsplash 22