Müller, Andrea
Supervisor:Prof. Gudrun Klinker
Advisor:Plecher, David (@ne23mux)
Submission Date:[created]


Over the last decades, many non-traditional topics have been covered by Serious Games. This includes games with Cultural Heritage purposes. In comparison, Jack the Ripper is a historical person that has been featured in the media abundantly to a point where the myths around Jack the Ripper may be more prevalent than the actual facts. With the On the Trails of Jack the Ripper game, a Serious Heritage Game was created with the purpose of introducing the Whitechapel murders of 1888 to its players and teach them not only about the incidents itself but also focus on the circumstances in which they happened, in order to present different angles of the cases. Thereby, its aims to dissolve myths and intends to raise Cultural Awareness for the living conditions of people in the East End, including poverty and antisemitism. The way the game plans to transfer this meaning is by the Historical Reconstruction of crime scenes and the recreation of inquest days or police documents At the same time, the game also intends to raise Heritage Awareness by offering real newspaper articles, historical police drawings and transcripts of dialogues by journalists of the time. Furthermore, the player will take the role of a fictional detective who, given the available methods of 1888, reconstructs the story of crime with the help of historically accurate or modeled after historical documents. To ensure a learning outcome, the game uses detective work techniques and Augmented Reality features, both of which support the learning by offering immersion and context accuracy.


Game Mechanics

The single player game consists of two applications. One one side, there is the Windows application where the main part of the game takes place. On the other side, there is the Android application that has to be installed on a private Smartphone or Tablet and is only used at certain points in the game whenever a marker can be scanned. The markers are integrated into the computer game in the form of pictures, and where the possibility to use the smartphone in hinted to the player, when a trackable image appears. To be able to scan those markers, the mobile app needs a portable device with a camera and a touch screen to interact with the augmentation. The two applications are not connected, neither wired nor wireless. 

Players of this game will be put into the shoes of a detective who investigates the murders that happen during the storyline. The main aspect of the game is to visit historically relevant points in time, starting on the 31st of August 1888 with the death of the first victim and ending with the closing of the last victims inquest on 19th of November 1888. As the game is supposed to be a SG, these dates were taken from real events, which means the actual murder days, investigation times of the City of London police and inquest dates in order to be as accurate as possible. Using accurate dates also prevents the player from assuming or learning false information. The user decides when to end a day and if he does, he proceeds either to the next day or the next event on the same day. This way, the players can decide on their speed on their own, allowing both fast and slow learners to achieve good results. Once a users skips to another day or event, he can not go back again, as this would lead to feeling of traveling in time, which is not the purpose of the game.

The game needs almost no interface. Users can switch screens by pressing the arrow key up to get an overview of the controls. They will also receive one of three icons from time to time: A magnifier when a hint is available, a camera when a marker can be scanned or a hand when he can click something. Whenever the respecive function is not available, the icons disappear.

Controls (left), magnifier, camera, touch icons (right)

As the inquest days of the thematized five canonical victims often overlap, the story is logically divided into three parts, all of which have a clear storyline.

The Cases of Mary Ann Nichols and Annie Chapman

In their cases, users will be able to investigate their scenes of crimes by scanning markers to see the augmented Historical Reconstructions of Bucks Row and Hanburry Street. In the first case, parts of the street is visualized, modelled after original photographies. Users can look around, zoom in and touch findable objects to receive information about them. In the second case, Users have to access the back yard by opening the door and find an arrow that allows to proceed into the yard. There, they will find new objects, some of which can be interacted with to find additional clues.

Bucks Row as seen by the userBucks Row as displayed on the mobile deviceFindable objects in Bucks Row

Users will have to solve multiple quizzes in both cases like checking statements, reconstruct the time of events, look for realtions anmong witnesses, and finally, draw conclusions by answering important questions.
The quizzes are based on detective work and should simulate interrogations, fact checking, connecting information and solving problems.
Witness statements are taken from inquest transcripts made by journalists of the time and the design of documents is modelled after historical documents from the London Archive.

Statment found in the gameOriginal statement of a similar caseRelation quizConclusion quiz

The Cases of Elizabeth Stride and Catherine Eddowes

The next two victims died in the same night and their murders are closely interwoven. This time, the player is able to interrogate the witnesses directly, starting with the case of Stride and only a few people to interrogate.
While talkint to these persons, he will receive keywords out of what they are saying that will be added to his keyword pool. When receiving a new word, the user can revisit already questioned witnesses to receive new information, including names of other persons. By typing their names into a search field, he will receive new witnesses to interrogate. As the other victim was killed in another district that falls into the jurisdiction of another police department, the player will only be able to talk with police man for her case in a similar fashion. However, this time he will use visual keys instead of words to question the constables. In doing so, he will unveil an antisemitic background, the missing cooperation of police forces in London and the sinking trust of people in police man. The player will also learn of the Dear Boss letter and will be able to read it, together with the Saucy Jack postcard, and the From Hell letter. Letters are given as original pictures and offer an augmented version that can be read better. After some quizzes about the murder where he has to form sentences with word snippets, he will also receive original newspaper, in which some panels can be augmented to view additional information and their origin.

Finally, he will conclude the cases by answering a few final questions, that combine the papers, letters, police, antisemitism, and victims together.

The Case of Mary Kelly

Mary Kellys case is build in a visual novel way where the user can experience how the body was found, reported, and obducted. He will work through the events and solve a few mini-quizzes. The player also needs to solve an AR puzzle, where he receives 13 logic statements on the computer and a blueprint of the house the body was found in. With the help of the statements, the players have to find the room in which the victim died and lived.

Finally, he will have to search through another set of wittness statements in which three contradicitions can be found. During the game, users receive points for correct answers and sometimes lose points for false ones. In the end, they will see their final score and can measure themselves against others.


Eleven Testers took part in the Evaluation, six of which were male, five female, and none divers/other. The median age was 32, with 4 between the age of 18 to 28, six between 29 to 39, and one over the age of 50. They were further asked how often they played digital games, from which six answered daily, one weekly, three rarely, and one never. When asked about how often they play non-digital games, two said weekly, five monthly, and four rarely.

They received a pool of content questions before and after the game, to check on whether they learned during the game or not. The results below show, that in every question, there was a steep increase of correct answers. They also had to give an evaluation of the Usablity in terms of aesthetics, learnability, operability, and accessability. Furthermore, the Player Experience was tested for the fields Confidence, Challenge, Satisfaction, Fun, Focused Attention, and Relevance.  Here, a player could rate each Statement with either Strongly Disagree (-2), Disagree (-1), Indifferent (0), Agree (1) or Strongly Agree (2). The Results can be seen in the following:

After all these questions, the users were further asked to state three positive and three improvable aspects of the game. Most participants mentioned the same aspects, revealing a clear trend in both, positive and negative parts of the game. Positive answers included the detail, artwork, and original content that was included. Most users also mentioned the immersion and AR reconstruction as positive features, together with the challenging tasks. This may be due to the fact that the AR elements were included so that users were able to interact with them. Streets could be inspected from multiple sides, buildings could be seen from multiple floors, objects could be found and collected, some of which could further be inspected to reveal more information. They also liked the variety of exercises and mentioned that they were happy they were able to re-read information. While the relevance of the game received rather neutral results in the PE evaluation, the accuracy and the content was still positively perceived. As suggestions to improve the game, most answers included the heavy use of textual information. Many suggested a switch to audio feedback, or a shortening of the amount to read. This reflects in the ratings about focused attention. Including different kinds of input could raise the results in this area. Another point that was mentioned multiple times was the length of the game. Most users played for more than four hours which made the playing more strenuous and stressful. Testers also named difficulties with the scanning of Vuforia on their phone, which was mentioned previously as well. Some players further experienced problems with the lighting when trying to scan markers. It is to be mentioned here, that participants did not state anything about the detective theme or work, neither positively, nor negatively.


In general, On the Trail of Jack the Ripper set a basis for the evaluation of multiple fields and also multiple game mechanics in general. It also introduces detective tasks and work to the SG world to research on. To answer the question from the beginning of this thesis: Yes, a combination of a Serious Game, Augmented Reality, Cultural Computing, and the detective genre has received positive results in this thesis and is expected to receive even better ones if improved with the propositions in this work.




Master Thesis Andrea Müller 

Master Presentation Slides