VR and Games for Empathy and Identity

Author: VyVy Ngo (@SleepyVyVy)


New Shoes – What if I could feel what someone else is living through?

Imagine a world where you can put on special glasses, and you’d be able to feel, see, maybe even taste what someone else is living through. Maybe we’d understand more easily why someone’s feeling down or share the joy of an achievement with your friends or how delicious that sweet, sweet cake. Well, technology hasn’t gone that far yet but it’s possible to simulate certain parts of life through a video game character and some games don’t even realize they’re already doing this. We’ll be looking at two different ways to approach this idea and see how they helps users practice this concept.

VyVy Ngo is a student leader and influencer among young technologists.

In Montreal, Canada, Minority Media is a team has started creating a game that puts the user into virtual reality. The goal is to make the player see and live through what someone else is going through. So it has the potential to simulate someone going through depression, bullying as well as someone achieving success in their life, giving the player the chance to have a realistic learning experience in a safe and easily controllable exit points – the option to put down the game if it gets too intense.

Other games such as DayZ don’t make it a central mechanic, but by implementing a key design feature helped open the doors to what it felt like to be treated as another race. For those who don’t know, DayZ is a multiplayer zombie survival game where the goal is to simply survive the aftermath of the outbreak. What sets this game apart from others it the lack of choice when it comes to character creation; the player simply didn’t have a choice on who they got. This includes anything from height to race – gender not included though, all characters were males. In turn, many players got to experience firsthand getting yelled at with racial slurs. Again, this was a multiplayer game, so other players were yelling at them without even knowing whether or not their avatar matched up to their actual race. Through this, they learned the weight of language and the power of words, giving them the opportunity to reflect on their choice of words in reality. The YouTube channel Extra Credits explores this even further, going so far as to talking about why the creators decided on this design choice in their video titled “Rust – Representing Race in Games – Extra Credits”:

Now some might be thinking: “Oh great… People are just trying to stop bullying and all the BS.” Well yeah of course and it’s not just an issue that’s limited to schools either. However, games like these also can be used on a much deeper level, on level of understanding another human being. Its creators wants players to feel empathy. And in this day and age where people tend to misinterpret messages, makes quick judgments on others based on arbitrary traits such as race, religion and gender, these games really serve as a good reminder of what we all are in the end: human who have emotions and who make mistakes.  Maybe one day we really will truly live in peace, and let’s hope that in the future that “maybe” becomes a “definitely”.

Links to check out:

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About the Author


VyVy Ngo is a student leader and influencer among young technologists. As a student and member of the student council at her school, she frequently plans tech events for her fellow students. An avid maker, she loves building cool things – both in the real world and the virtual.

Follow VyVy on Twitter: @SleepyVyvy

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This article was written for Trendy Techie by VyVy Ngo, for the Trendy Techie Contributor series.


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