Six to Start

The Code for BBC Two

In the BBC Two series The Code, Marcus du Sautoy explains how mathematics underpins everything in the world around us – and he unlocks the door to a next-generation online and real world treasure hunt…

Six to Start designed, developed, and ran the BBC’s most ambitious transmedia production to date for The Code, with clues and gameplay seamlessly integrated into three TV episodes, four Flash games, multiple real world events including a live finale at Bletchley Park, and a beautiful 3D-printed mathematical sculpture as the grand prize.

The Numbers

  • 1,000,000+ players of The Code Flash games
  • TV show significantly outperformed benchmarks on iPlayer and 7 day viewing figures
  • 100,000+ treasure hunt players engaging in the overarching meta-puzzle
  • 300,000+ interactions on the Facebook fan page
  • 1000+ photos, videos, 3D models, and a wiki with 100,000 views and 2000+ edits – all created by users!
  • Mathematics has a historical (and undeserved) reputation for inaccessibility, but with The Code we’ve demonstrated that the right combination of fun, interaction, and social gameplay can attract a massive audience.

Flash Game Highlights

We created four Flash games for The Code to demonstrate key maths principles from the show in a fun and accessible way, and to attract an audience that wouldn’t normally think of watching a BBC Two maths documentary. The games were available on the BBC and syndicated on Flash games portals, and crucially contained clues for the treasure hunt along with links back to the BBC homepage.

Screenshots from The Code

  • Froghopper: Use your packing skills to help Fermat the Frog cross the pond safely! This game illustrated geometry and tessellation in a highly addictive and intuitive format.
  • Prima Pizzeria: Catch the right toppings to make perfect prime pizzas against the clock! We included prime numbers and factorisation in this frantic action game.
  • Master of Mosaics: Find the symmetry in these cryptic patterns to become the Master of Mosaics! Master of Mosaics had an entirely original game mechanic centred around identifying symmetries and is perhaps the best and most interactive way to learn about ‘wallpaper groups’ yet.
  • Kingdom of Catapults: Use the power of maths (and your fruit-catapult!) to defend your castle! It’s our take on physics games like Angry Birds, except we expose players to real physics…

As part of a collaboration with The Open University, we also developed an enhanced version of one of the games called Grandmaster of Mosaics, containing dozens of extra levels, new gameplay types, and three extra symmetries. The same collaboration also saw each game being backed up with tips and educational facts on The Open University’s special microsite for The Code.

The Treasure Hunt

The Code’s treasure hunt unfolded in four distinct phases, each tailored to specific audiences so we could maximise overall audience numbers and engagement:

Photo of the prize

  1. Pregame: Aimed at building up a dedicated, core player-base via Twitter and Facebook. We printed 1024 unique postcards and sent them out to people across the country for free; by solving the puzzles and crowdsourcing the images on the postcards, players were able to reconstruct the 3D model of our treasure. We also began the Prime Number challenge, where players had to find and photograph the first 300 primes. Each of these activities generated massive amounts of social engagement.

  2. TX: Aimed at maximising audience numbers. During the broadcast of the three episodes, we clearly signposted how visitors could interact with the show and treasure hunt by simply playing our Flash games or looking out for clues in our videos. For the more engaged players, we continued to release community challenges and tougher puzzles.

  3. The Hunt: Aimed at maximising engagement. With all the clues now released, players could download and unlock a beautiful 84 page book, full of puzzles from easy mazes and Sudoku to the most fiendish brainteasers! The first three people to solve the puzzle book would be entered into our finale – and with the help of a user-generated wiki, the book was solved within a week.

  4. Finale: The three finalists were invited to a live treasure hunt at Bletchley Park where they solved puzzles against the clock in order to discover the treasure. The whole event was filmed and is watchable online, allowing the millions of people who watched or played The Code to find out what happened…

Image of a word search

Almost all of The Code – with exception of winning the treasure – was made available to people around the world, from the video clips containing clues to the Flash games and 84 page PDF. Audiences today often go abroad to find interesting links and content, and by exposing The Code to people worldwide, we were able to increase the number of players in the UK.