On Friday, March 30th, the KnowledgeLab hosted the first ever gaming event to take place at three locations across campus where students could compete against each other in virtual reality. Attendees played Rec Room, a multiplayer mini-game collection where each person played laser tag and disc golf in games against other real players in different Smith locations. We also played Star Trek: Bridge Crew, an action-adventure game that places you right into the Starfleet ship. Both games provided fully immersive atmospheres where the players could experience the world of the game from the perspectives of their avatars and could move around freely and explore the virtual space.
Those who joined us in the KnowledgeLab really enjoyed the experience and the spectators had just as much fun watching them play and interact with virtual opponents and teammates. GAP presented several discussion questions for the gamers to think about as they played.
The first question, “What were your preconceived ideas of VR before coming here today? How did your experience today change those?”, sparked a lot of conversation. Both players of Rec Room felt much more immersed in the virtual reality than they had expected to, even though the graphics were more cartoonish than realistic. One student wrote:
“During the disc golf game, I really felt immersed in the game. At one point, I was trying to throw the disc upwards to get it up a hill, and accidentally hit the ceiling with the remote in my hand. I wasn’t even aware of the space outside of me at this point, so much so that I was not aware of the limitations of the space (including the height of the ceiling) so I really found this experience to be something completely new and more immersive and interactive then I thought possible.”
It typically took the players a moment to adjust to both the virtual avatars and those physically in the space with them communicating with them simultaneously, but they quickly caught on to balancing both. The players even high fived their virtual teammates and became competitive with their opponents. In response to Question 2, “What was your experience with regard to communication, collaboration, and cooperation while playing this game? How did VR enhance this?”, one student remarked:
“With ambient noise, it was a little difficult to pick out voices [of the other players in the game], but once you connected voices with faces, communicating came very easily. The people felt very real and I felt a real sense of collaboration and conversation, even when competing.”
We didn’t have very much time to play Star Trek: Bridge Crew at our event, but a student did get to briefly sit inside the ship and work the controls. The player’s avatar is seated in this game and we found that it was disorienting for the player if they were not seated in real life as well.
After gameplay, a few students stuck around to discuss educational applications of VR, or Question 4, “How do you think you could use this for a class project? How can multiplayer factor into VR’s use in the classroom?” One student brainstormed a variety of ways it could be beneficial in an academic setting:
“It can be used to talk with people around the world, which would be useful for languages, and you can explore and interact with different places. You could use it to teach basic skills or explore relevant places from around the world. You can also use it for classroom bonding, to make people more comfortable at the beginning of the semester.”
The KnowledgeLab Vive is open for student use during Joce Kofke’s hours – Tuesday/Thursday 12-2pm and Friday 1-3pm – or by appointment by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.