Half-time in the Escape Cubes project

The experimental research trip, which has been running at the Mediadesign University of Applied Sciences since April 2024 with the "Escape Cubes" project and the Berlin city cleaning company BSR, is now entering the hot phase.  

The task of working together on an interdisciplinary basis and playfully translating educational approaches in environmental education for the target group of 14-18 year olds into and around 4x4x4 cubes is challenging the study groups - in a research and creative way! 

After initial brainstorming sessions and inspiration tours, the Media Designers and Game Designers have now filtered and evaluated their ideas and presented the first concept approaches at last week's status meeting with the project sponsor BSR. 

The media designers impressed with their spatial concepts, which include the exterior design of the cubes with themes such as Ocean, Forest and Urban Space using multiscreens and, for example, transporting the educational game inside the cube to the outside by changing colors, mood and light depending on the game status. If the player answers incorrectly in the cube, the "ideal" world turns into a dystopian situation that can only be reversed by giving further correct answers.  

Another concept places the ever-popular photo box, which invites you to take selfies, at the center of a cube. When an audio signal sounds, the background motif in the setting changes drastically. Beautiful green landscapes give way to images of a catastrophic flood in which you find yourself. If you then turn to the game, it quickly becomes clear that personal actions have decisive consequences for the outcome of the mission. In this way, attention for environmental education topics is well placed in the target group and the learning process is stimulated. 

Infographics are structured in a completely different way, aesthetically exciting with articles from everyday life that skillfully visualize statistics based on the proportions and create aha effects. 

Last but not least, the target group must of course also become aware of the cubes in the cityscape. To this end, the media designers developed guerrilla campaigns at festivals, events and hotspots in Berlin. 

The game designers approached the research project from a gaming perspective and built two 4x4 Cubes in an experimental room at the Mediadesign Hochschule. Not uninteresting, because the proportions quickly show how many people can be meaningfully involved in a game in the cube and what arrangement of players makes sense.  

While the first cube takes up a Star Wars bridge arrangement with a commander and 5 players, the second cube is dedicated to an inside/out perspective that emphasizes the escape room approach.  

Just like in Star Wars, the commander has an overview of the game on a large screen. The five players at the other terminals are each focused on a special task that contributes to the outcome of the game, but cannot see the big picture. The key elements here are clear communication and teamwork between commander and players, which ultimately determine victory or defeat. In terms of content, the game is about simulating a typical trip in a garbage truck, i.e. collecting, sorting and recovering recyclable materials, which are then sent for recycling or incineration. In order to motivate the teams, visualizations on the outside of the cube show the status of things, e.g. how much waste has been collected from different fractions and how this relates statistically to the quantities collected daily in reality. 

The inside/out perspective is based on the game "bomb disposal", where the player teams split up. The players inside the cube have different information to the players outside. Once again, the aim is to positively influence the game through communication and team spirit. The players in the cube can only free themselves if they crack the code, which in turn can only be cracked by answering questions correctly and the solution leads to the next level. Only when all levels have been passed does the door to freedom open. 

Both educational approaches support not only a learning experience in terms of content, which can also be deepened afterwards with other applications. In a playful way, the students also get to know themselves through team reflection and experience the importance of team play, spirit and communication in the group. 

We are looking forward to the final presentations on 20.06.24 at BSR!