Escape the Smart City

Escape room in the city to evade AI-surveillance.

2018  |  Experimental Game Design


How can we help citizens become critically aware of the implication of AI surveillance infrastructure ?

Escape the Smart City is a critical pervasive game that uses an escape room format to help players develop an understanding of the implications of AI-enhanced surveillance technologies. Set in downtown Amsterdam, players work together as a team of hackers to stop the mass deployment of an all seeing AI-enhanced surveillance system called Watcher.

Watcher assigns a trust score based on their social media, bank information and public behaviour

Any public wrong doings are immediately fined and your trust score is deducted.


Immersing players in the speculative future where the city has turned into an panopticon from AI surveillance.

In order to defeat the system players need to understand its attributes and exploit its weaknesses within 60 minutes. Novel gameplay elements include locating hidden surveillance cameras in the city, discovering and exploiting algorithmic biases in computer vision, and exploring new techniques to avoid facial recognition systems.

This hall is the secret base where the players will be operating from

Players finding hidden SD cards in the city

Players masking to avoid emotion recognition

Research Context

Surveillance cameras changing from passive recording device to active law enforcement machines.

Urban surveillance cameras are no longer merely devices for recording images. They are becoming active agents that can evaluate what they see and trigger intervention if they deem it necessary. There is a danger that these automatic law enforcement can be used to turn the entire city into a panopticon. This game was an outcome of the master graduation project at TU Delft. In the research I defined 8 problems of AI surveillance and developed a game that communicates it. More details is in the thesis PDF below

The thesis book is available on PDF as well.

Watcher logo  is inspired by the sketch from Bentham

Project Details

Date » 2018 ~ Now
Project's Nature » Master Thesis TU Delft (cum laude)
In collaboration with Waag in Amsterdam.


My Role » Research & Design (Master Graduation Project)
TU Delft Mentor » Roy Bendor, Derek Lomas
Waag Mentor » Tom Demeyer, Stefano Bocconi