- Sydney, Australia
- 20 minplay time
- 4.9star rating
Created in partnership with UNSW, A.L.I.C.E. is a world-first cyber security awareness app. Playable in roughly 20 minutes, the serious game invites players on a quest through the twists and turns of the digital world. Designed for university students, the mobile game used retro-styled pixel art and addictive game mechanics to transform dry educational content into a captivating, interactive experience that just so happens to teach the fundamentals of online safety.
With the rising threat of cyber security, and the parallel need for everyday individuals to arm themselves against identity theft and other online scams, Sydney’s UNSW was looking for a way to educate university students about how to protect themselves in the digital world. Together, we developed A.L.I.C.E., a world-first cyber security game using storytelling and gamification to teach online safety.
You’re a first year UNSW student, logging into unprotected devices all over the place, registering with so many societies you barely remember even the simplest passwords. Everything was fine, until you put your one and only password in the wrong place. And someone stole your identity. Now you must enter the network and use your wits to outsmart evil viruses, beat vicious malware, and ward off phishing attacks as you race to recover your stolen identity.
When deciding on the visual style of A.L.I.C.E., our goal was to find an art style that made sense in a cyber security context without being predictable. After iterating through a number of styles, we decided on a retro-inspired pixel art aesthetic. Drawing inspiration from 1980s arcade games, this vibrant yet edgy style helped incentivise casual play while giving users an exciting world to explore throughout the serious game.
Along with the arcade-inspired colour palette, we decided on a nostalgic pixel art style to construct the world and characters of the A.L.I.C.E cyber security game. This is an undoubtedly recognisable aesthetic that drew from the history of arcade and video games while feeling fun and approachable for gamers and non-gamers alike.
The blocky-ness of pixel art also helped us accentuate the ‘digital’ aesthetic of the serious game, creating a fantasy ‘world behind the screen’ that felt believable. Seemingly in closer relationship to the zeroes and ones that dominate the online world, adopting a pixel art style allowed us to accentuate the glitch as both a stylistic and narrative tool.
Drawing on game design theory, the gameplay mechanics throughout the A.L.I.C.E. cyber security game focused on creating an enjoyable yet educational experience. With intuitive interactions and a gratifying reward system, A.L.I.C.E. encouraged users to explore the digital world, learning through each interaction in a way that is both accessible and engaging.
As you enter the network, you’ll need to set a password, the strength of which determines your health. As you travel through the game, being hit by a virus or succumbing to a brute force attack will break down your password bit by bit. Once your password is guessed, it’s game over.
Viruses and worms infect the network, and some are harder than others. You’ll need to avoid or defeat them in order to make it through. And, if you clear the network of viruses completely, you’ll receive a special bonus achievement.
As you begin to question what’s real and what’s not, you’ll need to sort through a series of emails. Some are from legitimate student identities trapped inside the network and forced to mine for more data. Others are phishers determined to get even more of your personal information.
The A.L.I.C.E. cyber security game was released during UNSW O Week in Sydney. Available on the university’s online platforms and during orientation events, it was a world-first in cyber security awareness and education. Playable on a desktop or mobile device, the serious game demonstrated how interactivity and gamification can make learning at any age more engaging.