Virtual reality is officially going green.
Particularly, VR games are hoping to make people healthier and the environment cleaner. Currently in the United States, there are over 100 million casual and dedicated gamers. Most of these fans are slowly transitioning into VR gaming. Some VR developers are seeing this trend as a big opportunity to promote green causes and actually do something to contribute towards eco friendliness.
Virtual reality was largely considered a step forwards towards more realistic games and stimulations. A VR flight stimulator, for example, can present challenges that closely resemble real life to pilots in training for better education. VR has been all the rage in recent times largely thanks to Pokemon GO. The latest installment of the classic game was an instant hit on smartphones. Pokemon GO was not entirely VR, but it was a partial form of VR known as augmented reality. People interact with the real world in order to play a digital game. Pokemon GO was a prime example of the potential of VR to drive real world traffic and turn enormous profits for a multitude of related businesses.
Pokemon GO showed another appeal of VR gaming. Because people have to actually interact with the game, VR games have the uncanny ability to change our long-held behavior patterns. Gamers traditionally play games sitting down. This behavior contributes to a sedentary lifestyle that leads to devastating diseases. However, Pokemon GO managed to get even the most hardcore gamers out there on the streets hunting for pokémon. The game was actually making people walk for miles, something health advocates have tried to do unsuccessfully for over a decade. This was the first indicator of VR to be more than just a gimmick or a passing tech trend.
Now, VR developers are thinking beyond making people healthier. Ambitious executives are imagining scenarios where VR could actually contribute to the good of the whole planet. What if VR could make us more conscious of the environment so we actually want to save it instead of paying lip service to eco-friendliness? That’s the ambitious goal of a slew of VR game developers who hope that these games might contribute toward greener practices in real life.
Let’s face it; gaming industry has not been without controversy. While some games thrill and entertain everyone, others are grotesque and offensive. For example, Playing History 2 caused outrage after the game included a task where the player had to load as many Africans as possible onto a slave ship. The gaming industry has been through more than a few such controversies. So, it’s perfectly fine to wonder whether eco-friendly VR games is just another sales pitch.
That’s not the case with eco-friendly VR games, assures Mark Skwarek, CEO of Semblance Augmented Reality. VR gaming developers are actually imagining a world where gamers could use their motivation for good. For example, what if gamers, instead of shooting imaginary aliens in space, actually helped clean up the trash or advocate against poaching? What if in-game activities had a direct effect on the real world? After all, something similar happened with Pokemon GO. Some players on the lookout for pokémon on the streets made it to the news for rescuing real abandoned animals and reporting on robbers.
People who are developing green VR games, like Skwarek, think that the plan for eco-friendly VR is not too ambitious. And he is not alone. Students in Eindhoven University of Technology in the Netherlands are currently developing such games. Even the Congress is sort of agreeing with the idea. In 2015, the Congress approved a National Science Foundation grant of $450,000 to a simulation game that teaches high schoolers about climate change. Columbia University’s PoLAR Partnership recently offered cash prices for video games with environmental themes. The top prize went to a gaming company that makes “global survivor games” focusing on environmental destruction.
So, eco-friendly video games are not just a publicity stunt. There are people actually interested in developing and playing these games. Some are even looking to make VR headsets more environmentally friendly. Read ahead to find out several VR games that raise environmental awareness:
5 VR Games That Want to Save the Planet:
1. Doom Prepper Sailors
This is an experimental game developed by students at Eindhoven University of Technology. The game is set in a post-apocalyptic world about 50 years into the future. Thanks to rampant water pollution, everyone is getting sick and dying. It’s a Mad Max type of dystopia, but with plenty of dirty water. The players will be guiding actual boats, 3-D printed and GPS equipped, along actual waterways to win the game. The game gives points for identifying real contamination areas along the waterway. The game is still under development. But when it’s released, who wouldn’t want to control a 3-D printed boat?
Developed by Strange Loop Games in Seattle, this is a unique game where the player has to make a set of choices that affect an ecosystem. The game awards coins, except these coins are renewable resources.
3. The Crystal Reef
Developed by a Stanford student, this is a virtual diving game. The player role plays a marine biologist diving through the corals of Ischia, Italy, while observing and taking marine life samples. The dive is not without serious challenges. The jellyfish can sting. More importantly, the reef is affected by acidification brought forth by climate change. Algae and sea grass is taking over and the octopuses are dying. The player is on a sort of observational and experimental journey, as if he or she is travelling in real life. That’s the true appeal of the game: to have an adventure while learning about environmental destruction.
You may have already heard of this rather successful game. In this game, rather than shooting up aliens, the player has to nurture an alien life form into adulthood from a tiny cell. It’s certainly a unique gaming experience.
5. The VOID
The VOID is not a game per say, it’s a VR theme park. It’s currently being built in Salt Lake City, Utah. Once completed, you can go there to play a VR game where you explore different terrains of America. The VOID is being supported by National Geographic to recreate lifelike environments for players to explore.
The technology is certainly advancing and soon you might be able to save the planet from the comfort of your bedroom.