Revealing Hidden Local Cultural Heritage through a Serious Escape Game in Outdoor Settings
2. A Brief Field Review
2.1. Cultural Heritage and Games
2.2. Serious Games
Serious Games in Cultural Heritage
2.3. Escape Rooms
2.4. Serious Escape Games
3. Game Description and Implementation
3.1. The Game
3.2. Objectives and Learning Process
3.3. The Hybrid Reality Environment
3.5. Structure and Implementation
3.6. Objects, Clues and Rewards
3.7. Objects’ Role and Players’ Actions
4. Testing and Evaluation
4.1. Research Questions, Methodology and Tools
- What are the impacts of the Serious Escape Game on team’s behavior?
- Is it and to what extent accepted by players/visitors?
- Can it and to what extent positively affect players’ attitudes toward local cultural heritage?
4.2. Participant’s Profile
- Preparation and testing. The preparation and testing stage aimed to setup the game, to ensure player’s safety and the smooth operation of the AR application according to other research guidelines [4,9,25]. More specifically, preparation and testing lasted 5 days and special emphasis was given on the safety of the players. The play area was cleaned, leaves and broken tree branches were removed. Next, the spots where the objects would be hidden and the spots where the digital app would be activated were selected. The AR application was extensively tested in order to ensure its smooth operation, to select the most suitable and safe search area and to ensure enough space for comfortable players movements and the successful image recognition, because in the external environment the light brightness changes at different times of the day.
- Players invitation. Players were initially informed about the purpose of the study, the game content, the game evaluation and about the playing options and then they were invited to take part in the game. More specifically, they were offered the opportunity to choose the day and time of the event and to form the teams themselves or to play the game as one single team. The limitations were that the number of members of each team should not exceed six people. In most games, teams have five players or more ; however, for the settings of the specific game (available space, number of items and quizzes), a team with more members was not considered to be an effective choice. Another limitation was the weather conditions, which should not restrict game conduction and there should be daylight for the application to be used. There was a very positive response and willingness to participate, so after the invitation there were immediate appointments for the day and time of play.
- Game conduction (Figure 6). The game conduction stage provided a test with players in real conditions and aimed to study this type of game, the players’ reactions and attitudes toward the game and the local cultural heritage and to identify possible problems, failures, etc. that were not predicted during game development. There were two game plays, with two teams competing in each play. Players were introduced to the purpose, the goal, and the rules of the game. Grouping into two teams was done by the players themselves. Players were also asked to choose whether they wanted to compete based on a time limit or on the best time. All players decided to compete for the best time. The first two teams had already decided the grouping, and both teams had the same number of players. The 3rd and 4th teams were formed just before the play. All teams decided the order of participation themselves. Before the game each team was given instructions about the purpose of the game (search for a hidden secret by solving puzzles), about the use of the application and about the area where they should search for clues. During the play, the opposing team waited its turn at another spot, without visual or acoustic contact with the game area. The players were supervised by the researcher who was present in the place the game was conducted and had the role of the game master, first of all to ensure players safety, to guide and help them in case they got stuck or disappointed by providing hints, to provide feedback and guidance in certain cases such as when looking for items outside the area or confirmation if an object was a clue for the solution of the puzzle and to ensure the smooth flow of the game, according to relevant study findings and guidelines [4,9].
- Game evaluation. The game evaluation stage included initially a group semi-structured interview and then the debriefing-reflection phase (Figure 7). In the end of each play, a group semi-structured interview was conducted, which lasted 20–30 min and only written notes were kept. The debriefing-reflection phase is considered an important element  and in the current study aimed to study the views and experience of players with the game, local history, and local cultural heritage. The debriefing-reflection phase with the players lasted 15–20 min, where the researcher-instructor explained the purpose of the game, how the game was organized with the first priority being the safety of the players, what elements were used, how the documentation of the historical data was done (residents’ interviews, etc.), the use of stop motion technique for the myth’s representation and the AR application development. Debriefing-reflection is considered a critical component that leads to long-term learning, to better experience and to game improvement [3,4,9]. In the current study it was additionally used as an evaluation tool. Evaluation of learning outcomes was conducted in an indirect way, through interviews and discussion and not by a formal form like a test, which was considered inappropriate in this preliminary phase of the game.
5. Evaluation Results
5.1. Impact on Team’s Behavior/Teams’ Dynamics and Cohesion
5.2. Attitude Toward the Game
5.3. Attitude Toward Local Cultural Heritage
6. Discussion and Conclusions
- regarding the impact of the Serious Escape Game on team’s behavior (research question 1), it is noticed that the game experience had positive effects and offered players multiple and valuable benefits such as new knowledge, teamwork, collaboration, enjoyment, motivation, interest etc., corresponding to learning outcomes and skills enhancement and improvement reported in other surveys [3,10,20,23,24] and therefore confirming their results. Additionally, it was found that the friendly competition between the two teams helped players to immerse in the activity and the given ability to players to decide how to play allowed them to engage with the game in their own way, confirms the results and guidelines of other studies [4,9].
- the positive and immediate response to participation, the positive attitude during the game and the positive comments of the players after the end of the game are in line with the results of other surveys  and indicate that this category of games can be accepted to a large extent by the players/visitors (research question 2).
- the players’ positive attitude, enthusiasm and interest about the local history and cultural heritage and their determination to overcome difficulties of the natural environment are in line with the findings of other studies . Additionally, their positive behavior and attitude indicate respect both for the game and for the space, in contrast to cases of damages in the room caused by players  and therefore this type of game can positively affect players’/visitors’ attitudes toward local cultural heritage (research question 3).
Institutional Review Board Statement
Informed Consent Statement
Data Availability Statement
Conflicts of Interest
List of Questions
- Players age and main occupation (asked to select one of the following: pupil, student, other)
- Do you often visit the village?
- Do you know any historical information about the place? If so, how did you learn about it?
- Have you ever played escape room games?
- How interesting did you find the game?” (please select one of the following: “not at all”, “a little”, “moderate”, “very” and “extremely”)
- What did you like about the game?
- What didn’t you like about the game?
- Do you have any comments or suggestions you would like to make about the game?
- Have you used any AR application? if so, could you please mention one?
- What would you like to comment on the content of the AR application?
- What is your opinion about the representation of the myth?
- Do you believe that this representation is intended only for young children, that is more suitable for a certain age group and specifically only for preschool children?
- How much did you like the combination of culture and technology?
- Would you like similar experiences to be available for this area?
- How would you describe the overall experience?
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Tzima, S.; Styliaras, G.; Bassounas, A. Revealing Hidden Local Cultural Heritage through a Serious Escape Game in Outdoor Settings. Information 2021, 12, 10. https://doi.org/10.3390/info12010010
Tzima S, Styliaras G, Bassounas A. Revealing Hidden Local Cultural Heritage through a Serious Escape Game in Outdoor Settings. Information. 2021; 12(1):10. https://doi.org/10.3390/info12010010Chicago/Turabian Style
Tzima, Stavroula, Georgios Styliaras, and Athanasios Bassounas. 2021. "Revealing Hidden Local Cultural Heritage through a Serious Escape Game in Outdoor Settings" Information 12, no. 1: 10. https://doi.org/10.3390/info12010010