TRAPPED: A VR Detective Story is more than just another virtual reality game. It is the strategy used by Texas-based non-profit organization Radical Empathy Education Foundation to teach people about the plight of human trafficking victims. The game was developed thanks to crowdfunding and has a unique approach.
Beyond the Excitement of Virtual Reality Gameplay, a Dreadful Reality
In TRAPPED, the player assumes the role of a detective who has to investigate a murder case. As the game progresses and clues start coming in, it is clear that the murder victim was exploited as a victim of human trafficking as well.
The game is interspersed with throwback experiences of the victim – seeing the world through her eyes, following her along the path that led her to becoming a victim of human trafficking.
The developers chose this platform because it is “the ultimate empathy machine”. Players are not outside agents in a virtual reality game, they are “in” the game, interacting with characters and with objects and going through a fully immersive experience.
Building Empathy and Awareness, One Game Movement at a Time
TRAPPED: A VR Detective Story does not feature mature imagery of violence or nudity, but it contains realistic language. The choice to risk offending some people’s sensibilities was made with a clear goal in mind: to create empathy and to raise awareness of what victims of human trafficking go through, the mental and physical damage done to them.
The founder of Radical Empathy Education Foundation, Billy Joe Cain, has 25 years of experience in the field of interactive technologies. He has worked with or for companies like Origin Systems and Electronic Arts, as well as for the US Air Force. His work consists of creating educational games and instructing students during summer camps to develop video games with social relevance and impact.
TRAPPED: A VR Detective Story was developed on the HTC VIVE platform in a room-sized environment and will be officially launched on January 26.
A work-in-progress version of the game was presented at the 2017 SXSW Game Expo – watch the video below:
Opportunities to Develop the Virtual Reality Game in the Near Future
Radical Empathy Education Foundation is still open to add more features and more realism to the game. Among the future additions they plan for TRAPPED are: superior-quality art resources, supplementary interactive objects, and personalized music and sound effects, as well as further polishing to the overall look and feel of the game.
Even though TRAPPED does not currently offer the same superb immersive and graphic quality of a virtual reality game produced by a professional studio, it does reach out to people at an emotional level.
The non-profit developers are still accepting donations on their crowdfunding page. They are looking forward to any further resource which will help them shape TRAPPED into a virtual reality game for the senses and the soul.