About Routes


 Project Summary

Routes was a transmedia educational thriller
commissioned by Channel 4 Education
in the UK, with additional funding from The
Wellcome Trust
.  It was
produced by Oil Productions. Routes launched
on Jan. 29, 2009 and ran for eight weeks.
The goal was to engage teens, particularly teen girls, with science content.

The experience revolved around a central portal site, RoutesGame.com, as well as several
other blogs, websites, and social media networks. The project consisted of four major pieces:


  • Weekly
    demonstrating scientific processes like heredity and the spread
    of an infectious disease through sneezing.

  •  A
    documentary piece following
    award-winning comedian Katherine Ryan as she had a DNA test performed and
    grappled with what the results meant for her and her future children.

  • An alternate
    reality game
    that allowed players to help teenager Rachel Burren and
    journalist Matt Blacker solve the mystery of why bioscientist Marcus Schoenberg
    – Rachel’s uncle – was murdered.

  • Weekly
    recap webisodes
    covering the events in the alternate reality game to make
    them accessible for a wider audience.


  • Over half
    a million unique viewers
    to date

  • Minigames have been played over 23 million times

  • 40%
    of players were in the target audience (teens in the UK)

  • The total
    production budget
    was £800,000


Routes has taken home a number of awards:

  • The 2010 IVCA
    in the Web 2.0 category

  • The
    2010 IVCA Grand Prix

  • A 2009 BIMA
    in the Interactive - Content category

Routes has also been shortlisted or nominated for several

  • 2010 Rockie
    Award for Original Online Program (not yet awarded)

  • The Prix
    Jeunesse International
    2010 Interactivity Prize (not yet awarded)

  • BIMAs in
    the categories of Online - Website, Informational, and Children's - Interactive

  • 2009 BAFTA
    for Best Children's Interactive

  • 2010 MediaGuardian
    Innovation Award
    for Use of Web Platforms

  • UK Writer's


Routes was launched as a traditional games portal and documentary.
The characters of Matt and Rachel attended the launch party in-character;
they each had a web presence established well before the run of the game.

During the party,
Rachel discovered that her uncle, Markus
– one of the science advisors for the Routes game portal – had
been murdered, launching the murder
mystery component of the experience.

In real time and via
several media
, Rachel and Matt investigated Markus’s death. The community of players helped them translate
Portuguese police reports, infiltrate an unscrupulous private security company,
help an informant escape kidnapping, and more.

Ultimately, they pieced
together the facts
: Markus had stumbled on a plot in which the Prometha, a
bioscience company, was paying a field agent to obtain illegal DNA samples of
protected plants and animals from Brazil. This agent’s actions inadvertently
wiped out an indigenous tribe, the Murutaibo, by infecting them with measles.
When Markus found out, he was killed to
keep the secret

In the experience’s finale, players participated in live chat and watched security camera footage in real time as the characters and a select few players broke into
Prometha’s labs to obtain concrete proof.

Media Used

Routes made heavy use of blogs, websites, email, and social media to tell the story. Characters had a social presence on
Facebook, Bebo, and YouTube, and
responded to comments and emails – usually within
a few hours
. A few sample links
and sites include:

Several Levels of Participation

Throughout the experience, players were given the
opportunity to engage with the content
and story on several levels, as much
or as little as they chose.

  • Watching the weekly documentary and ARG recap webisodes

  • Playing minigames
    on the main portal site

  • Helping and communicating
    with several characters
    as the story unfolded, even becoming another
    character in the story

  • Exploring online content by following clues and discovering new websites

  • Attending
    live events
    , including a launch party and a comedy show

  • Assisting
    both online and on location
    with a finale raid on a bioscience lab to
    obtain evidence of the murderer’s crimes

Andrea Phillips

My role in this project was lead interaction designer. In this role, I performed several key tasks:

  • Architecting
    the structure
    of the interactive experience

  • Designing specifications for the games portal and minigame mechanics

  •  Scripting the flow and sequence for all live events

  • Writing
    specifications and copy for websites

  • Defining all
    social media

  • Responding
    to player activity
    across all social media

  • Tracking
    audience response
    to fine-tune the experience as necessary

 For more information on me, take a look at my complete interactive resume and my availability page.

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