Cardiff University.

Turning a social experiment into a downloadable game.

Sector

Education

Project type

App

Cardiff University is a public research university founded in 1883. It attracts around 30,000 students each year. It’s one of the leading British research institutes, ranking fifth in the UK for quality and second nationally for research impact.

Making research fun.

Research can be challenging for universities. It’s time-consuming, costly, and difficult to make sure data is accurate. A common barrier is getting respondents to take part in the first place. Because it requires full attention. Increased privacy regulations are making this data collection even harder. So how can you make the research process easier?

We were approached to gamify a sociology experiment for Cardiff University through an interactive app. One that would allow users to play a game, with data from each game feeding back to the university for its research.

A game of deception and imitation.

Based on a Victorian parlour game, Masquerade is a game for three players: a judge, a pretender, and a non-pretender. Players choose a characteristic common to the judge and the non-pretender. Religion, occupation, or gender may be a characteristic, for example. Identities of the pretender and non-pretender are hidden from the judge with the aim of identifying the pretender by asking a series of probing questions. The pretender’s aim is to deceive the judge into believing they are in fact the non-pretender.

Keeping players playing.

Getting the essence of the game across to first-time players was going to be a challenge. The need for clear UX and design identified right from the start. Keeping the game moving, with each player knowing where they were in the game and what role they were playing was crucial. It was vital to the experiment.

So knowing that player attention is critical, we built for engagement. Pages are designed with simplicity so that the player is never distracted. Varying colours are present on pages to keep the player aware of game progression; always focusing on user journeys. Smooth transition between pages was something we also ensured so that the game was pleasant to play and the app easy to use.

Reinventing data collection.

What happens when the mobile network drops out? Or, you receive a call or your mobile switches off? These complications affect the game for all players. Masquerade had to be robust and resistant to anything that could happen to devices.

We hosted the main game logic on Microsoft Azure but secured interactions and game data on a separate server at Cardiff University. The server only progressed through the game when each player was ready to proceed with their part of the game. Due to numerous configurations and routes through the game, this wasn’t easy. The game server would have to deal with player progress and keep the other players all informed and up-to-date.

Games are potentially played over a period of days, so the server would keep the game alive until all players reached the end or if one quit. Despite its complexity, the game succeeds by bringing a university research project out of the lab and available as an enjoyable parlour game.

More than a game.

Masquerade is now an app that any iOS or Android smartphone user can download and play with either friends or complete strangers. And what is a quick and fun game to play, is one crucial to work carried out at Cardiff University. This is data collected via cutting edge technology without having to proactively seek respondents to take part in a mass social experiment.

By connecting our technical, creative and strategic teams, we were able to make this a multiplayer game that connects people from any location. Making it fun to collect data from a sample of people that spans the globe. That’s the power of a game.

To download, and see the Masquerade app in action, visit the iTunes or Android app stores.

This is a job well done. We noted and appreciate Sequence's enthusiasm for the project, the willingness to work to tight budgets and timescales, and the patience with people who have not done this sort of thing before. In addition to the app... you have helped to restore an old professor's faith in on-time, on-budget IT projects.

Dr Rob Davies Cardiff University

Products and services used

    Skills

    Design

    Creative direction

    Art direction

    Visual design

    Development

    Interaction development

    Phone gap