An arcade-style game and alternate controller that mimics the tactile experience and precision of picking a lock.

Connor Carson + Mary Georgescu


We are a two time recipient of the NYU Prototyping Grant!  Our prototyping blog an be found here!

Picklock is an alternative controller tied to an arcade-style, action game. The controller mimics the tactile experience of physically picking a lock while the digital game represents lockpicking more abstractly – as a series of mechanical mazes featuring narrow channels and falling pin tumblers. In order to navigate each puzzle successfully, the player must manipulate the delicate tools of a lockpick with surgical precision, navigating their way from the start of the maze to its center.

Picklock was originally a minigame within a larger narrative context. It was through our research and development in those early stages – research that included everything from the history of locking mechanisms to locksport as a booming professional recreation – that we discovered our minigame was not only capable of standing on its own, but demanded it. Our playtesters reacted enthusiastically, emphasizing how our controller felt akin to actual lock picking. This prompted us to explore a more specific design challenge – how closely can we simulate the tactile experience and emotional stakes of actually picking a lock?

Many games have attempted to capture lockpicking in a fun and interesting way, but most of these attempts leave a rather wide gap between the reality of lockpicking and the digital representation and gameplay. At its core, Picklock was designed to explore this particular gap, and hopefully, to close it.

In order to make Picklock as compelling and repeatable as the real-life activity on which it is based we needed to capture a few vital elements. The fine motor skills required to pick locks meant that our controller needed to be highly sensitive, closely simulating the physical experience. Then of course, there was the emotional state of the player to consider – we believe there’s a certain level of roleplaying that a lockpick subconsciously (or not) participates in. After all, it’s hard not to feel like a cunning, roguish thief when hearing the satisfying “snick!” of a defeated lock.

After countless iterations spent swapping out electrical components, materials, and cosmetic designs, Picklock has developed into something unexpected with countless possibilities well beyond our original intentions. From marketing Picklock to escape rooms, to developing it into a locksport practice tool with infinite procedural locks, or even redesigning it to be used for occupational and physical therapy – we’re thrilled about the possibilities and eager to continue iterating.