Democracy and participation, Education

EscapeFake winner


Who is behind this?

Irina Elena Paraschivoiu

Urban INC


Who is joining forces?

Urban INC




The project is a partnership between Urban INC, responsible for participatory design and outreach and Polycular developing game play and hosting game design workshops in schools.

Idea Sketch | Proposal


Idea pitch

Populism poisons the minds of youngsters with fear and untruth. Teachers try to cure it by preaching history books to digital natives. We think teens need to experience education as an engaging experience, so together with school kids aged 12-18 we will co-design and develop an interactive augmented reality escape room scenario. The story and riddles, ideated together with the kids, will be placed in a populist dystopian setting.
Read, check facts, research, solve riddles and escape the fake.

Where will your idea take place?

Workshops in Bucharest/Romania, Salzburg/Aut, Germany and dissemination all over Europe and beyond

Why does Europe need your idea?

Critical thinking means challenging everything you see, hear or read and making up your own answers. Too bad kids scroll media feeds and play games not realizing that they are instrumented. If we can’t empower them to find truths for themselves and keep an inquisitive mind, democracy will be lost. The idea to undermine democracy with FakeNews is very simple and old, but due to social media, big data analysis and digital media became a worldwide threat. Regulations and legislation need to be adapted, but even if the ones in power were willing to do so it wouldn’t solve the underlying problem. The speed and viral spreading of FakeNews only can be stopped by vaccinating individuals with education and critical thinking.

What is your impact?

Together with schools kids, game designers and educators we’ll have developed an innovative workshop format as an augmented reality EscapeRoom experience free to download and experience. Educators, teens and parents world-wide will be given a tool to adequately teach, experience and understand the mechanism and consequences of FakeNews and populism in a fun and entertaining way. Kids are curious and love to play games, with EscapeFake they will be immersed in a mixed reality game in which they will start to question reality and awake to a new self with increased media literacy, caution and on top a portion of healthy skepticism. In a year from now we hope to have immunized at least 10000 individuals against FakeNews.

How do you get there?

It is important to spark empathy and bridge the gap between the virtual and the real. We developed a software with which an immersive learning experience based on an mixed reality EscapeRoom can be delivered. Following a participatory design process (UrbanINC), students will work alongside game designers and storytellers to create riddles and stories which will be implemented by game developers. The design process as well as the finished game will let youngsters understand that a minor virtual action like sharing a post has real-life consequences. FakeNews, Bullying and HateSpeech are using communication strategies to manipulate and demean. Uncovering and understanding the mechanism will help them reflecting their own actions and validating media.

What is your story?

We love democracy, computer games and we love Europe and both our organisations thrive to make system change happen through technology and smart process design. All our projects circle around education, youth and playful experiences. Experience is the first step in understanding!
Urban INC is an NGO that creates educational and cultural projects to transform the way cities in transition solve their problems. Romania is undergoing a difficult phase and democratic values are crumbling under FakeNews and corruption. Ping-ponging ideas with Polycular we came up with the EscapeRoom metaphor which seemed quite a fit.
Polycular was founded by 2 professors who realised that education is broken, so they decided to leave University to work on next-gen learning tools and games. Play the change!

Who are you doing it for?

The direct project beneficiaries are young people aged 12 to 18 from Romania, Germany and Austria. We aim to reach 10,000 young people globally, by involving them in the EscapeFake scenario and educational activities.
The main target groups are teachers and educators involved in the areas of civic education, democracy and human rights. We plan to reach teachers and educators through awareness campaigns, teacher trainings and networks in all three countries.
A secondary target group is parents and teens themselves, whom we will reach through a marketing campaign.
We will involve other stakeholders - NGOs and civic groups involved in good governance, democracy, - by developing partnerships and involving them early on in the conception and dissemination of EscapeFake.

What makes your idea stand apart?

Escape Rooms are a hype all over the world, innovative teachers have even adapted this format for the classroom with great success, however it takes a lot of preparation and setup. Our project not only greatly simplifies this process in form of a free downloadable app, but with modern Augmented Reality features immerses the students even more in a maze of deception and investigation. A game becomes reality and it’s literally about escaping your social media bubble and gain an understanding for different perspectives and uncover the mechanisms of mass manipulation. We believe it is a perfect fit for educating youngsters about media literacy, fake news and democratic values like free speech/press.

€ 50000,-

Funding requested from Advocate Europe

€ 56850,-

Total budget

€ 50000,-

Funding granted from Advocate Europe

Major expenses

30000€ game development (game design, programming, concept/3d art, animation, testing, app release) 11650€ fees and honoraria for Urban INC collaborators, namely facilitation, content and outreach 7500€ will be invested in PR, including social media, marketing, promo video 7700€ travel/accommodation is split between the two partners 3000€ event costs for the workshops to be held 2000€ office expenses 1000€ unforeseen costs 6850€ in-kind contribution in form of working hours

What do you need from the Advocate Europe community?

We would like to partner with NGOs/individuals to try this idea of an interactive EscapeRoom for workshops with youngsters. We would welcome suggestion on additional ideas for dissemination and networks to collaborate with.

Project Journey

Road to impact

How to design an AR game on fake news

Many people ask us how we went about designing Escape Fake as an AR game but also as a good learning experience. We can definitely say it‘s not an easy task and we iterate many times in our design and development process, not just on the content, but also on improving the user experience and how people interact with the game. Here are a couple of reflections for all those who want to design interactive AR content for educational or societal purposes. Brace yourselves! 

Immersion through interactive storytelling 

Of course it is great to learn about fake news just by itself, but we find that a story always gives players motivation and a sense of meaning for solving the game. There is many ways to do that, for example, by making clear what the purpose is. In Escape Fake, we set the purpose of "fixing the truth" which means changing the timeline to avoid a dystopian future. Any sci-fi fans among you? That‘s where this is heading. Also, it helps a lot to be able to relate to the characters, so in Escape Fake you get quite some help from Hannah Lee May, your friend with whom you interact via chat. She is a central part of the story. 

Educational games 

It is always hard in educational games to figure out exactly how difficult they should be. If the game is too hard or if there is too much content to process, then the people playing it will not be immersed in it or having a good time. Too much effort to figure things out is always bad for the player and for the designer. Note though that it really depends who you think will play the game. For Escape Fake, we knew we wanted to work with young people and they are actually much better (and intuitive) with games and also augmented reality. Some other target group might be more comfortable with more difficult topics (content wise) but might struggle more with the AR interaction, if they are not used to these kind of experiences. 

AR games - future of education?

That‘s where we think things are heading, at least in the medium term. Of course, there are some technological improvements needed before people would play such games at home. We actually did ask the players of Escape Fake if they would, and many who enjoyed the game said they could imagining downloading and playing the game at home, outside of school of event settings. There is still some things to work on, not just in our game, but in AR in general. When augmented reality glasses will be more widespread, then we will not be looking through our mobile phones and the interaction with the game will be much more natural. 

That‘s it! Enjoy the game and tell us what you thought of it! You can always write to us or follow our Facebook page. 

Urban INC Polycular on Sept. 18, 2019
Road to impact

Escape Fake going to South Korea

We are very happy to have been chosen, out of 1200 proposals, together with 29 others to take part in the BetterTogether Festival taking place in October in South Korea!

Better Together Challenge is a 3-day global gathering that brings together social innovators, changemakers and idealists in action from around the world for an inspiring exchange of ideas and celebration of being #BetterTogether. ​

The Challenge provides an open and live stage where a vast array of projects and creative solutions for social issues are shared in a unique contest format.

Urban INC Polycular on Sept. 18, 2019
Road to impact

Escape Fake: Austrian winner for World Summit Awards

We are very happy to announce that our Escape Fake has won the World Summit Awards Austria and is now a nominee for WSA globally!

The World Summit Awards are a unique awards system, selecting and promoting local digital innovation to improve society. Combining an ongoing  series of international events and activities with a global network of start-ups, social entrepreneurs, mentors, jurors, speakers, experts, government leaders, academia and civil society, WSA is an international platform for cutting edge examples of how ICTs can impact society in a positive way.

Urban INC Polycular on Sept. 18, 2019
Impact Story

Young people play Escape Fake on Europe Day in Salzburg

On the 9th of May 2019 we had the chance to play Escape Fake with 500 young people eager to learn about the European Union! 

Together with the Land Salzburg, EU-Bürgerservice and with support from European Cultural Foundation, we developed a thematic thread of our Escape Fake game dealing specifically with issues of fake news related to the European Union. 500 young people, aged 14 to 18 took part in a large scale event held at Europark, one of the biggest shopping malls in Salzburg. They also attended talks with representatives of various political parties in Austria about Brexit, copyright reform, and dealing with member states that did not meet the conditions of accession.

Most importantly, we had a great time and received a lot of valuable input to improve our game. A big thank you to all who tried Escape Fake and also filled out the questionnaires!

Urban INC Polycular on Sept. 18, 2019
Road to impact

EscapeFake wins Content Award Vienna

2018 ended on more than a positive as we received the Vienna Content Award for EscapeFake!

Every year, the Vienna Business Agency awards some of the most creative ideas which involve digital solutions, gaming, augmented, virtual or mixed reality. The jury loved our proposal to create an augmented reality escape room scenario for young people to experience, interact, learn and co-create more about fake news!

Four other projects were awarded together with us, check them out HERE. Also, Irina on behalf of our team received a Woman Award which consists of an additional 1000 EUR. We are now working hard in conceptualising EscapeFake and soon we will be reaching out to all who are interested in using our tool for education or training purposes. So feel free to get in touch! 



Urban INC Polycular on Jan. 31, 2019

Why this idea?

Solve riddles on fake news and find out the truth yourself. That’s what EscapeFake proposes with their app designed with and for teens. By developing a playful tool and engaging young peoples’ angles on how to verify information – a crucial topic for public discourse in democracies – the project challenges misinformation and shows how to use critical thinking to investigate issues and develop informed opinions. To promote democratic thinking in adults, we need to educate schoolchildren.


Urban INC Polycular

Idea created on Jan. 17, 2018
Last edit on July 19, 2018

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