Six to Start

Smokescreen for Channel 4

A cutting-edge game about life online. Explore websites, search for clues, receive phone calls, chat on IM, and tackle puzzles and minigames. On Smokescreen, who can you trust?

We all use Facebook, MySpace, Bebo and MSN to keep up with our friends – and we’ve all heard the stories about parties on MySpace being mobbed, or people getting stalked on Facebook. The question is, what would you do if it happened to you?

In 2009, Six to Start was commissioned by Channel 4 Education to help teens aged 14-16 understand the risks (and benefits) of being online – from defending yourself against phishing to avoiding online stalkers. We found that the existing resources about online safety were either presented as simplistic kiddy-style videos, or text-heavy websites. With Smokescreen, we decided that the best way to engage teenagers and give them a useful understanding of all of these issues of life online would be through an interactive and immersive online game with an exciting and dramatic story.

At its heart, Smokescreen simulates the internet. In the game, players use ‘Fakebook’, ‘Gaggle’, ‘Tweetr’, ‘MSG messenger’ and other sites to help a group of friends who’ve set up an exclusive new teen-only social networking site called White Smoke. Players also receive simulated phone calls and text messages from the in-game characters; we wanted our players to believe that the fictional world they were in could actually be real – and so could the risks and threats it contained.

With Smokescreen, we’ve created an cutting-edge solution to a 21st century problem of online privacy and security.

The Numbers

  • Almost 500,000 plays
  • A massive 15 minutes spent on site per session
  • Highly positive reactions from Channel 4′s teenage focus group, and expert critics and professionals

Game Highlights

Screenshot from Smokescreen

Smokescreen takes place over 13 missions, each lasting 10-20 minutes, following the story of Max Winston and Cal Godfrey, two mates who’ve set up an exclusive social network called White Smoke. After Cal’s involved in a car accident and falls into a coma, White Smoke becomes huge – and starts attracting huge problems. Each mission sees you explore the world of White Smoke, and find out who you can trust – and who you can’t.

  • The Rumour Mill: Track down the creator of a rogue game that’s phishing (stealing) users’ personal information from White Smoke.
  • Too Much Information: Use Fakebook, Gaggle, Tweetr and White Smoke to help someone find the girl of his dreams...
  • Skiving Off: A friend skipped school, and needs your help now that someone posted a photo of her on Fakebook!
  • Gatecrashers: Thousands of people are turning up to Max’s private party ever since it was shared online, and he needs your help to turn them away.
  • White Rabbit: See a beautiful and disturbing flashback of a mystery at the heart of Smokescreen.
  • As Seen on CCTV: Jo’s managing a band that’s made a song about CCTV, all filmed on their schools CCTV cameras – you need to get access to the school network and edit the video together.
  • End of the Line: Exactly what can you find out from someone’s internet browser history...?