Home » Carniville

Game design, development and publishing project with young people.

Age range: 8 – 19
Settings: schools, after school clubs and youth clubs, most with special educational needs and other disadvantages.


Without the generous support of these organisations, this project would not be possible.

Game Genre

A point-and-click style adventure game, with

  • a variety of environments to explore
  • hidden objects
  • puzzles
  • mysteries
  • interactive dialogue with text and spoken performance

With graphics in a variety of media, animation, soundscapes, sound effects, music.


Old. Dingy. Decaying. Carniville is a world of its own, a carnival out of space and time.

But within each moth-eaten, desolate tent there exists a world of dreams, a paradise belonging to one child – a manifestation of their most powerful fantasies.

Except it isn’t a dream – it’s a nightmare from which they can never awaken.

Carniville is owend and controlled by The Ringmaster.

The Ringmaster is a champion, a guardian. He grants children’s wishes, and creates wonderful fantasy worlds for them. He liberates them from their boring existences and let’s them live forever in their personal idyll.

If you think that sounds more like Hell than Paradise, you would be right.

But The Ringmaster isn’t evil, he’s just powerfully deluded.

The Children

Trapped in these supposed fantasy worlds, the children gradually forget who they really are. All they retain of their real life is a terrible sense of loss. And sometimes they just sit and weep.

And so, from each tent in Carniville, there flows a small rivulet of tears. And all across Carniville, these rivulets meet, creating streams of tears, eventually flowing into the River of Tears and then going over a waterfall into the Pool of Tears.

The Waxwork Museum

Whilst the children live out their lives in a never ending “fantasy” land, the Ringmaster stores their bodies in his Waxwork Museum.

Next to each person, there is a sign with information about them, including their age when they arrived in Carniville, and how long they have been here. This can be anything from a few months to many years. With some there are also personal possessions or momentos from their former life.


Each Tent has its own visual and gaming style, as decided by the young people who are making it, for example:

  • a steampunk castle ruled by a rusted iron dragon in the classic point-and-click style
  • an Atlantean world with direct movement and puzzles
  • an underworld platformer
  • a hand drawn acrobatic dog
  • a top-down racing game
  • outer space
  • a side scrolling monster truck

The Cold Open

A cold open is a narrative tactic used in television and/or films. It is the technique of jumping directly into a story at the beginning or opening of the show before the title sequence or opening credits are shown. – Wikipedia

When the game starts, Bonnie is in a Manga world. There’s no mention of Carniville or the Ringmaster.

Bonnie interacts with the Manga world and meets Manga characters. She collects objects and talks to the characters, seemingly preparing for some great quest. But there’s also a sketch book with some of her own drawing in. The pictures seem oddly like this world.

Things change and there are glitches.

She see’s a Hat which wasn’t there before.

When Bonnie puts on the hat, she suddenly see’s through the Ringmaster’s eyes: her own house. She hears her own thoughts: her love of Manga and drawing. Then she hears the Ringmaster’s thoughts about granting her wish to live in a Manga world forever, having Manga adventures.

To escape this nightmare, the Player must use one of the items they have picked up to destroy the Hat. Before she actually does it, she says, “This can’t be The Ringmaster’s real Hat. Somehow it has been projected into my fantasy world. But why?”

Header image

The background for the header image is by Torley from their flickr page. This image is used under the Global Commons licence: Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic licence. The image is here.