On Friday, we left Seattle on a beautiful late summer afternoon. Tonight, we find ourselves in La Serena, Chile, on a beautiful (but in a totally different way) late winter evening prepping for the opening of IMPAC4, the International Marine Protected Areas Conference.
As David Byrne once sang, How did I get here?
A year ago, we were very excited that two papers we helped to write had just been published in Aquatic Conservation (Wiley). The release event for the journal was held at the World Conservation Congress (WCC) in Honolulu, where we were showing our scuba diving simulation game, Infinite ScubaÂ®, and its new VR companion, a 5-minute dive in Belize with Dr. Sylvia Earle.
We work hard to create a realistic scuba diving experience with real dive locations, real wildlife and behaviors, real dive science, and real gear, as well as opportunities for players to learn about the ocean and its environmental issues. Our conventional (Win/Mac) scuba diving simulation game has always been warmly received at ocean-related events. Our #VR dive, however, was generating a much stronger reaction, something far more emotional and enthusiastic than anything we had seen with the conventional game. “Wow!” Applause. “Congratulations!” Stunned silence followed by a huge smile and thumbs up.Â Tears of joy. Requests to dive again and again. And again. “This feels like I am really diving!” “This makes me want to learn to dive in the real world.” “I forgot I was here… I thought I was in the ocean.” A standing ovation. “Who built this? You must tell me.” (Some people seem genuinely surprised that the people showing the VR dive are the same ones who built it. Not sure what to make of that. 🙂 )
When we re-read the papers we had just published, we realized that VR wasn’t even in our plans when we had written them. I mentioned this to John Baxter, the journal’s editor, and he immediately said “It sounds like you need to do a follow-up. Want to write it?” We talked about trying to clear up the confusion in VR terminology and wondered what other directions the paper might go. I reminded him that we had been co-authors, not lead authors, on the other papers. I reminded him that none of us have our PhD. He said the deadlines would be tight. He was optimistic anyway, and said he thought we were up to the challenge.
He was right. It was a wild ride from last year to now, from the seed of a paper to the real, reviewed, published article. But, here we are! OurÂ VR workÂ keeps opening the coolest doors for us!Â Here are someÂ of the other events we have shown our VR dive and conventional game this year:
- VRFest, Las Vegas, Jan ’17 (Nominated for Best Travel/Tourism VR)
- Game Developer’s Conference, San Francisco,Â Feb ’17
- Earth Day TX, Dallas TX,Â April ’17
- Power of Play/Intel Buzz, Bellevue WA, April ’17
- iFest, Seattle WA, May ’17
- Earth Games on Tap, May ’17
- World Oceans Festival, NYC, Jun ’17
- UN Ocean Conference, NYC, Jun ’17
We also visited localÂ western WashingtonÂ schools, hosted students at our office, and participated in online discussions with students out of state. We continue to make the game available free to any teacher or school who contacts us, and we donate $1 of each copy sold to ocean conservation non-profits, like Mission Blue (founded and led by Dr. Sylvia Earle).
Oh yeah, we also released the conventional game on Steam Early Access earlier this year. (Steam is the premier website for downloadable games.) Our VR dive is nearly ready for public release. We continue to add new dive sites, new gear, and new activities, to our game/VR, as well as do custom development work for other companies.
We are thrilled to be doing all of this work. Being able to combine our expertise from the games industry with our love of scuba diving, our drive to help save the planet, and our commitment to education is an honor and privilege.
Years ago, we decided the company totem would be the green sea turtle, or honu, the Hawaiian symbol of longevity, endurance, and good luck. Since we are land-based, we are actually more of a tortoise who admires and emulates the honu from afar.
Slow and steady…
The Infinite Scuba team at Cascade Game Foundry SPC