2024: Internship at the Ministry – A theatrical escape game prototype

2024:  Internship at the Ministry – A theatrical escape game prototype

2024: Internship at the Ministry is an early prototype of a theatrical escape room experience, a collaboration between Tusitala Books and Artwave Studio, a sound studio that creates audio-first experiences.

Inspired by George Orwell’s 1984, it is a 4-person, 50-minute game centred around productivity and workplace surveillance.

  • Internal protoype
  • 21-23 March 2024
  • Concept, script, puzzle development, sound design, set design, user interviews


We were interested in engaging with the theme of art and technological surveillance in a meta way, but also testing out the following practical questions:

  1. How feasible is a small-scale experience with no actors and minimal crew?
  2. How can sound design create a sense of liveness, and direct the players?
  3. What would it be like to use Alexa and a smart home system to trigger events? 
  4. How would audiences define such an experience?
  5. How would linking existing literary arts IP affect an immersive experience? Would it strengthen the storytelling aspect or alienate participants who were not familiar with it?


The idea came about after a three-way online meeting with a UK arts organisation Christine was on a panel with during a conference in June. The total duration of the incubation was approximately six months: Tusitala and Artwave started discussing the broad ideas in August, outlining the objectives in October, drafting the script in Jan, and coming up with the puzzles in February. We then ran a three-day trial in late March.

In the course of our research, we were inspired by theatrical projects such as Swamp’s Saint Jude and Donmar Warehouse’s Blindness, art and tech projects like FANGO, and educational visual arts installations like Mozilla’s Glassroom. Game mechanics wise, the Big Data 3.0 video series parodies Alexa and cemented our interest in using voice AI, while the time-based events structure was inspired by Hunters Entertainment’s Alice is Missing.

Sound design

Sound was used to create a part of the set design, filling in what would have otherwise been silence in a usual office setting. But this is an unusual office. For 50 minutes, participants followed an emotional journey determined by the sounds they heard, consciously or not.

From doing a speed typing test, to a surprise print job, from taking instructions from a female AI-sounding voiceover to pulsating rhythms & Slack pings contrasted with calming new-age music – participants move from one instruction to the next.

In the final 5 minutes, the themed music came on in full. Participants looked at the flashing countdown timer, hoping that time was still on their side. It did not help at all that it was completely out of sync with what they heard.


Set and playtest

Most of the props used were existing items in our office or homes. Our wonderful design and web development intern Bao created the amazing key visual and 50-min countdown timer (in one day!). We ran an internal test with colleagues one week before the trial, and came up with user interview questions for the participants.

Over three days, we hosted 9 groups with a variety of backgrounds: media and entertainment, librarians, boardgame creators, escape game reviewers, theatre practitioners, civil servants, escape game enthusiasts, etc. We appreciate their time, and learnt a lot from their live reactions and interview responses. Happily, most of them appreciated what we are trying to do! 

Next steps

After working on the prototype, we feel confident delivering a full production of quality – artistically, thematically, and game-wise. We will be consolidating the findings from the playtest, reconvening in April, and then reaching out to funders and/or sponsors after. Stay tuned!

If you’re interested in finding out more, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us directly too.

Project team

Concept and script Christine, Tusitala
Sound design Ng Sze Min, Artwave Studio
Voiceover artist Cheryl Ho, Artwave
Key visual and countdown timer.    Bao, Tusitala
Stage management and puzzles.     Michelle, Tusitala
User interviews


Foler, Tusitala