When I first moved to California, a few colleagues and I took a drive to location scout for a film locations and also to test out our new drones. We had each only recently moved to Los Angeles as young professionals, yet one colleague Ben was oddly oriented and familiar with the terrain. When I asked him how he knew the geography so well, he replied by saying, "I know where I am because I played Grand Theft Auto – it’s the same exact topography." The other colleague Alex chimed in saying, "Yeah, I wouldn’t have felt as comfortable in Miami if my mom didn’t let me play Vice City". Oddly enough, I had never operated a drone before this expedition and I certainly was not a huge gamer before getting into virtual reality (VR), but because my thumbs and technological expectations are wired for hardware to be interactive, the first time that I flew a drone was incredibly simple and felt natural to me.
What does this tell us? It seems to me that a great deal of today’s global issues, at a very rudimentary base, come from a lack of understanding – not because we do not possess the information to understand, rather because the way in which we acquire and learn knowledge is highly partial, cumbersome and inefficient. There is a technological paradox; each generation receives more and more information and we have the capabilities to connect with more and more people, yet at the same time, technology makes us more insular and solidifies the beliefs of our milieus in a way that isolates others that are different from us. Many of our current cognitive comprehensions fall into this paradox and beg us to address the always-looming role of technology (as we should). However, on a more fundamental level, I might propose that we begin to question the role and practice of our learning methods, particularly in our educational institutions. Overall, our global educational structures of curriculum are archaic. General learning structures tend to be uni-dimensional and focused on skill-building and particular professional trajectories. Educational institutions are also where we develop a societal collective conscious that solidifies our differentiated identity to the global world. Contextualization falls to the wayside even within multi-disciplinary approaches, and this continuously leads us to insular knowledge regardless of the copious amounts of information which technology affords us daily. Our knowledge is no longer contextualized, rather solidified and this is visibly extrapolated into the increasingly polarized ideologies of our world.
Now, if gaming is powerful enough to elicit in Ben an employable mental map of a place he had never physically been, certainly this is a minute illustration of the power of interactive learning methods; thus urging us in the direction of drastic reconstruction of learning practices. Virtual reality provides a platform in which we can develop our learning (and by extension understanding) amidst the abundance of biased information we receive daily.
The prototype we are developing is an educational (VR) simulation in which we can learn about other cultures through interactive gameplay. We are looking to develop pilot content countries all over the world. Let's start off in Egypt!
The Prototype Design is as follows:*Video & pictures are un-rendered references to the design. The final product hopes to look like live action gaming.
Phase 1: Choose your country
You as the gamer will be fully immersed and interact with the content that you chose to engage with.
Each artifact will lead you to a new segment of the world that you have chosen.
Going to school, for example, will launch you into a new interactive game design that will teach you Arabic like Rosetta Stone. But instead of being trapped inside a book or behind a screen, it will be like you are in the middle of the country. You will interact with avatars who speak the language and take further field trips to learn vocabulary, grammar, colloquialisms of Arabic, etc.
Choose your own content. Behind each artifact is a story, an experience or lesson to help you better understand the content and furthermore, encode the information you have just learned better.