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Macquarie University

The Great Fire

An Interactive Narrative Measuring Morality and Ethics

A promo image for S.W.A.P, a first-person shooter developed by Sydney based Game Development Studio Chaos Theory Games
The Great Fire is a noir visual novel set in the Orpheum, a 1950s country-town cinema.

This game has been created as part of a research project: Designing for Moral Engagement in Videogames undertaken by Malcolm Ryan, Paul Formosa, Jane Messer and Stephanie Howarth at Macquarie University.

We were presented with

The Challenge

Macquarie University approached us to develop a narrative-driven game for their Morality Play research project.

The game presents the player with a series of ethical dilemmas and measures their decisions. It needed to be easily configurable and produced rich user data for use in research.

That became

The Solution

Controlling The Variables

Working together with university researchers, we identified a suite of variables that can be used to test player's perception of morality.

We developed tools that expose these variables to the research team, letting them run experiments that are measurable and repeatable.
Screenshot of the Morality Meter in The Great Fire, player's must choose a the Evil or Good option to progress in the game. The Great Fire is available on Windows and MacOS
Screenshot of a scene from The Great Fire with Andy, Kirsty and Moira in the Orpheum. Black and white 2D noir art style, the Great Fire is available on Windows and MacOS

An Atmospheric Experience

The Great Fire paints a sombre and dark mood as we follow the tragic events that unfold in the Orpheum.

We wanted the aesthetic to immerse players in each scene, and every sound to elevate the impact of the player's impending 'Good' or 'Evil' choices.

Rich Data Collection

We implemented tracking and reporting features to record all actions the player takes while playing the game, including where their mouse moves and hovers.

This data was combined with surveys to not only record what decisions the player made, but also their perception of the decisions.
Screenshot a moral 'Dilemma' in The Great Fire. The player is tempted to trip and steal money from Andy, you must choose the Evil or Good option. The Great Fire is available on Windows and MacOS

Which led to

The Results

Featured at DWF19

Livestream of The Great Fire was included at the Digital Writers Festival 2019
Promotional Graphic from the Digital Writers' Festival 2019
An image of a student playing The Great Fire on an iMac. The Great Fire is available on Windows and MacOS

Valuable Reseach

The Great Fire has accumulated valuable data on our perception of ethical choices, which is currently being analysed by the MQ team.
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