by Maoz Nagauker
Video games can be a great space for exploration, asking questions, and learning new things. This is what I hope to achieve with my project. My name is Maoz and for the past few months, I have been researching the Dark Web. For my grad project, I have decided to develop a video game inspired by my discoveries. I hope not only to expose people to the concept of the dark web but also to raise a conversation around the functionality and necessity of it in our world. This is my story.
Xposure is a 2D, platform game where players need to hide to survive,
Exploring a new and dark environment while avoid being detected,
Solve puzzles in order to get answers and reveal secrets,
And engage with different, mysterious and hostile characters.
The gameplay for this game was inspired by the experiences that people who used the dark web had shared with me. Many of them described a feeling of curiosity and dread of “what’s hiding around the corner“; That you are just one click away from seeing something that you will regret.
If you didn’t watch Game of Thrones, first of all, you should. But there is a scene where Daenerys is trying to get into the House of the Undying to get back her dragons from the mages. She starts circling the tower looking for an entrance, Jorah Mormont follows her but she disappears while he completes a full circle without getting in. The magic of this tower lets only people who are invited in. I really liked it and decided I wanted to create something similar in 2D.
I have started with laying down a round platform and placing the player in the center of the view.
Now I could add a center point object that would not only act as a background but also as the axis point that all other things revolved around.
Finally, I could add all the other objects that rotated around the axis point and helped to build the atmosphere of the environment.
Now that you get a general sense of how the game looks, I want to go back a little to the topic that has initiated this game, The Dark web - and the problem space it creates.
If the internet is an iceberg, the dark web is nested inside the deep web. This section is only accessible through special browsers like TOR and uses different URLs that end with .onion instead of .com or .ca which we are familiar with in the Clear web.
If you google the term “Dark web”, the keywords that come up are: Drug Trafficking, attacks, malware and more…
So it was no surprise that mental models also connected anxiety and fear as emotions people had when they thought about the Dark Web.
Although the Dark Web can be a hotbed of criminal activity, it was initially an online space for people to be in, without being tracked, and even nowadays, the dark web functions as a platform for people to share and have a discussion while keeping their identity anonymous and untraceable from big corporations or oppressive governments.
Both The New York Times and Facebook have a “dark” version of their website accessible through the TOR browser. More and more companies understand the need and potential of the dark web and media publishers like the NYT encourage their journalists to use the Dark Web.
The scenario I have chosen to focus on for my game is Journalism. Journalists use the Dark Web not only to find leaked secrets but also to communicate securely with their sources, protecting them from governments and others who would harm them.
By using game design, I can provide people a safe space to explore and think about the Dark Web experience without any risks or consequences.
Let’s dive into the Xposure story. The story revolves around the city of FortWeb, which represents the clear web most of us are familiar with. It is a technologically advanced fortified city controlled by a theocracy. The city citizens are mostly happy and feel safe. They are largely afraid of what’s lying outside the city. The city is enclosed by a well-guarded wall to defend the city from outside attacks. Everything outside of the city walls is referred to as Darkware. This area is mysterious and considered to be a dangerous zone. As you have probably guessed, this represents the dark web.
Ody, Our main character is a journalist who lives in FortWeb. Ody has lived inside the city all his life and has no idea what lies beyond city walls except the disturbing rumors everyone hears. One day, he wakes up and finds himself outside the city, in the middle of nowhere, presumably in Darkware. And this is where the game starts.
Lost, alone, and terrified, the protagonist decides to find his way to the city walls, and return inside. During one of his salvages, he encounters an old model of a reporting camera-like device. He is instantly drawn to it and accidentally activates it. The camera seems to possess intelligence, and apparently wants to find its way inside city walls as well. He names his new companion, Frames. Together, they try to survive the vast, and hostile terrain they are in.
They learn about 6 outposts outside the city that provide commodities to the city. They also learn that these outposts serve as data bunkers for the city government - this part was inspired by research I did about data centers and what kind of information is stored there. A lot happens in DarkWare and they meet many strange but insightful characters. Ody and Frames have to avoid being detected inside the heavily secured outposts so they can infiltrate it and collect information. The data collected creates a set of evidence which leads to a revelation - Political and societal corruption is spread in FortWeb by its theocratic government.
This is the story so far and I know it sounds like a lot, but it’s actually a shorter version. If you are interested to see the full script outline - Please feel free to check this link out.
And if you like to read a short story I have written based on my script - check this link out.
This is the final character design sheet. As you can see, I have simplified the characters but still have kept things like belt, pockets and bag to still make it unique. I have also tested different colours.
Thank you !