Phone Booth Mysteries

Step into a phone booth and explore the world of crime, adventure and film noir! Phone Booth Mysteries was my graduation project at the HKU. It is a portable, single player escape room - which you play entirely through the phone. 

For this project I wanted to experiment with the gameplay we have come to expect in escape rooms. Most regular escape rooms offer players a certain role, for example - a scientist, spy, etc. Though the problem I have with these roles is that players never have to act upon them. That is what I wanted to change. Players would actively partake in the role they were given, kind of like roleplaying in D&D. 

The role I gave players is the one of a private detective, tasked with finding a missing woman. I have always been in love with Film Noir movies, wanting to do a project around that theme. So this seemed like the right moment for letting that come to fruition. Now players had a role, but they still needed something to roleplay with, something that would respond to their actions. That’s why I came up with using the phone. 

You can talk to people using the phone, collecting clues along the way. Not only did talking to characters feel real, it also made the experience feel so much bigger than just one phone booth. For the characters players could talk to, I wrote scripts and asked people to record them, it ended up with seven actors for about ten roles. 

I wrote a system that tracked the player’s responses, so I would know which piece of dialogue I could reply with. It ended up like an intricate soundboard. The phone is wired up to an Arduino board, which translates the inserted number to a keypress. When a phone number is dialed, the system filters through all the  dialogues, only showing the ones that are relevant to that number. Through the system you can also control the music and lighting. 

The project was to me a huge success. I showcased my interests as a designer, the quality of work I deliver and my passion for combining physical installations with digital systems, to create a sense of play. What I’m most proud of is seeing players really becoming part of the story, some act like real bad-cops, saying anything to solve the case - while others are more thoughtful. Each person experiences the game in their own, different way.