Sea Hero Quest

The World’s first mobile game where anyone can help scientists fight dementia.

A game for good

Dementia is a growing health threat. Affecting over 55M people worldwide (135M by 2050), it is becoming one of the greatest medical challenges we face globally.

To help scientists working towards finding a cure, we created Sea Hero Quest – a mobile game where anyone can help fight dementia.

Sea Hero Quest is a multi-platform adventure game designed specifically to help advance the understanding of spatial navigation, and therefore understand one of the first symptoms of dementia.

Sea Hero Quest was developed in partnership with a number of world-leading dementia scientists, spatial navigation consultants and data security specialists (UCL, Cambridge, UEA, Alzheimer’s Research UK, Deutsche Telekom) and global communications agency Saatchi & Saatchi.

 An innovative collaboration between science and gaming

“We have never seen anything undertaken in dementia research at this scale before. The data set that Sea Hero Quest generates is truly unprecedented.”
– Hilary Evans, Alzheimer’s Research UK

Every aspect of Sea Hero Quest was designed jointly by our team and scientists from around the world. As players make their way through mazes of islands and icebergs, every second of gameplay is translated into scientific data that enables experts to study this area of our brains.

Translating traditional research experiments into engaging gaming experiences for a mass audience required massive shifts in traditional game design process and thinking. To ensure the most valid data set possible, typical gaming mechanics such as ‘collecting’, ‘lives’ and ‘level-ups’ were replaced with engagement strategies such as ‘level progression’, ‘personal bests’ and ‘complete with friends’.

Building a spatial navigation architecture

To ensure the validity of the research methods within the game we developed advanced spatial navigational tracking tools, including a specially developed algorithm to collect and relay continuous anonymised snapshots of data back to the secure data centre.

As this data was required to be relayed over cellular connections, we needed to ensure the impact was light on users, while the transfer remained robust. At the end of the day, securely transferring anonymous data collected from the entire game was less than the equivalent of posting 1 Instagram photo.

Designing levels around data

Understanding how the data would be analysed by scientists and processed by machine learning algorithms was key to building tools that created complete and relevant data in level design.

While each level was to be designed according to specific experiment objectives, we created tools that allowed us to quickly build these broadly from sketches and then refine them in collaboration with the scientists.

This method significantly decreased the time usually spent by scientists designing these experiments for similar studies.

Selected press

“Mobile game Sea Hero Quest ‘helps dementia research” – BBC News

“Game shows that ability to navigate declines at young age” – CNN International

Play This Smartphone Game To Help Combat Alzheimer’s – Huffington Post

“We have never seen anything undertaken in dementia research at this scale before” – The Telegraph

“This mobile game has the best ending: helping solve dementia” – Techradar