v.r. GRAND CHALLENGE
dESIGNING FOR THE OCEAN
As a part of the Royal College of Art curriculum, students across the school of design were put into groups and challenged to collaborate in a 4-week sprint. Our brief was to design a solution for a problem facing the ocean. My California roots inspired me to advocate for Kelp! A vital, but often overlooked part of oceanic ecosystems.
The 3 minute video below demonstrates our final proposal.
GROWING KELp IN Virtual reality
Our objective is to leverage VR gaming to support the growth of Kelp forests. We want to allow our players to design and maintain beautiful kelp gardens in a fun, but accurate-to-real-life simulation, where they can learn all about the intricacies of Kelp forests and their role in saving the ocean. In the process, we aim to support real-world activism and even give players the chance to watch their gardens be planted in real life!
The game gives players the opportunity to design virtual kelp gardens. Kelp grows off small stones, players arrange the stones to create different patterns that then grow into beautiful landscapes and fun designs... IF they can protect their garden against invasive threats and maintain a healthy ecosystem!
Invasive purple sea urchins for example pose an ongoing threat to kelp forests, both in real life and in the game. Players must ward off this enemy or else face devastation!
playing the game
Just like in real life, growing kelp helps lower the water temperature and de-acidify the ocean. In the game, it also earns you sand dollars that you can spend on a wide variety of sea fauna and creatures to help maintain your garden.
Sea stars for example are a low-level purchase that can help maintain the sea urchin population by working for you in the background to devour this invasive species.
Other players can visit your garden in the virtual world to compliment your design skills, give you rewards and exchange resources.
Oil spills contaminate the water and stops light from reaching your kelp. Without it, your kelp cannot photosynthesise!
Sea Otter Poachers
Watch out of Sea Otter poachers, who will steal your helpful friends Without your otters, your sea urchins will be harder to maintain
Storms can damage kelp holdfasts and severely alter your kelp garden design. Watch out, otherwise you may have to do some more planting
To ward off such threats, you are encouraged to engage with real world activism. For instance, donating to select organisations or signing environmental protection petitions through the game will earn you fish scales. These fish scales can be spent to protect your garden against random attacks.
BRINGING V.R. GARDENS TO LIFE
Not only will VR provide players a rich, immersive experience... but they'll have a unique opportunity to bring their Kelp gardens to life! Players will be able to export their kelp garden designs as digital blueprints, and use them to plant their gardens in real life through our partner organisations.
Collectively, humans spend millions of hours gaming, and engaging with virtual platforms to build, be creative and make friends. We want to engage the public in a similar way and put that energy to work for the environment. VR technology is the perfect tool to connect humans with worlds they don't often get to experience, like magnificent kelp forests.
Through Kelp's platform players can view livestreams of the garden's they've helped plant and share their creations with the world! Much like traditional gardening, we envision building a community around Kelp. With members sharing their creations on social media, engaging in competitions and finding friendship through the cause.
For all of us, this was the first time dabbling with designing in a virtual reality space. In a short time, we were able to learn the basics and take advantage of the tools and assets available to create a simulation of how we intended our game to work.
Dan is shown here demonstrating the physical movements we programmed to navigate our virtual underwater world, mimicking swimming gestures. Using the buttons on the handsets players can pick up and discard invasive sea urchins with a tossing gesture. In their treasure chest players browse their inventory by swiping through with their hands, and clicking a button to select and strategically place kelp stones or other assets.
Adama, our resident textile design student, contributed her talents to designing textures that would add dimension to our kelp forests. This is an example of how we could truly combine our skills to enhance the final result. We didn't have much time, but we were still able to show the potential of the game concept by demonstrating how different elements could be customized, adding creative value to the game experience.
'Kelp' The Game
While this was only a short student project, I do believe the concept has promise. I love games, and so this was a particularly fun challenge for me to conceptualize.
If you would be interested in bringing the game of kelp to life, don't hesitate to reach out!