2018 Melbourne Design Awards

spaces, objects, visual, graphic, digital & experience design, design champion, best studio & best start-up, plus over 40 specialist categories

accelerate transformation, celebrate courage, growing demand for design

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Project Overview

What happens when a rogue robot goes on a university rampage? It wreaks havoc in the labs, explodes in an electrifying display and has to be pieced back together, of course!

Pixel's Escape is a cutting-edge virtual reality escape room experience designed for future students attending Deakin University's Open Days in 2017. Using industry-leading HTC Vive technology, the immersive game follows the story of a mischievous Deakin robot from the School of IT named Pixel who runs amok around the university's state-of-the-art facilities. Gamers must use their slick CSI detective skills to save the day in under three minutes.

Project Commissioner

Deakin University

Project Creator

Liminal 360


Project Manager: Brendan Lucas
Director, Digital Marketing: Matthew Edge
Project Coordinator: Stephanie Bellassai

Project Lead / Programmer / 3D Artist / Sound Designer: Lachlan Sleight
Creative Lead / Lighting / Sound Designer: Stephanie Andrews
CEO: Damian Moratti
Managing Director: Nick Busietta
Programmer / 3D Artist: Tin Nguyen
Animation Artist / 3D Artist: Robert Dowling
Sound Designer: Darius Kedros
Narrator: Toby Ricketts

Project Brief

By 2020, the virtual reality (VR) industry is expected to grow from $5 billion to $162 billion. In line with our overall university strategy LIVE the future 2020, we knew as a brand, we had to continue to drive the digital frontier by using the latest emerging technology and trends – VR and gamification.

So, for our Open Days in 2017 - our biggest recruitment event of the year - we set out to leverage both of these to place Deakin firmly front of mind with prospective students.

This project follows the success of Flight DX3K, a 360-degree campus tour that has been the recipient of multiple local and international VR awards.

Project Need

We wanted to provide a VR experience that would clearly demonstrate the digital innovation that is core to Deakin’s DNA.

The idea? A VR escape room that used behavioural psychology and puzzles to induce heightened levels of challenge and stress.

So in order to bring this story to life, we devised a structure that could work at both our Geelong and Burwood campuses. With that in mind, we designed an activation that sent our newest Open Day detectives through a CCTV briefing room to watch a pre-game trailer and then into one of four dedicated VR play spaces.

Once thrilled and excited users made their escape, they had the opportunity to meet and greet the larger than life, mischievous robot, Pixel.

User Experience

With a crowded tertiary education marketplace during this period, brand awareness and cut through across Open Days was key. So, the key challenge was delivering a project that resonated with our audience.

Our target demographic for this project was prospective or high school students from the ages of 13-17 looking to study at Deakin.

This group makes up Generation Z - the first generation that’s grown up with digital products heavily integrated into their lives. In fact, this generation’s ability to tackle change with ease sets them up with the skills to become highly entrepreneurial.

Therefore, to gain market cut through, we knew the latest VR technology in the form of the HTC Vive was mandatory, paired with an ability to create a memorable story and learning experience around Deakin’s brand.

Our key objective to raise brand awareness with this audience was achieved, with our Geelong and Burwood Open Days in 2017 receiving one of our highest ever attendances with 22,000 combined.


Fusing behavioural psychology techniques and gamification, we designed an escape room that would induce emotional and cognitive states to increase the excitement of the user during the game.

Through multiple user testing sessions, we teamed up with our agency to refine the colour, saturation, tempo, interactivity, cognitive load and difficulty level to achieve the optimum experience for users.

This was done in a number of ways by starting with relatively muted colours in the scene and increasing the saturation during the course of the experience. In addition, the tempo and intensity (loudness) of the background audio was increased. As the escape room countdown clock neared the end, we implemented various visual and auditory cues to increase users’ heart rate (BPM).

The success of these in-game measures were evident through our two rounds of user testing. Participants evolved from feeling tense pre-game to cheerful and excited post-game with 80% in round one and then 100% in round two.

Participants across the two Open Days once again left the activation thrilled and excited, vindicating the time spent optimising the user experience during the production process.

This award celebrates creative and innovative design for a business event. Consideration given to originality, creativity; theming;  audience connection and engagement and how the event created a seamless experience for the visitor and helped to reinforce the program's core message
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