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IU Students Developing Program's First Virtual Reality Video Game

vr-pic-2.jpg

Virtual reality relies on large goggles and two handheld controllers to create a fully immersive display. (Steve Burns, WFIU/WTIU News)

First-year students in Indiana University’s game design program pitched their ideas for an original game to industry experts Friday. Only a handful of those ideas will move forward in the program.

One successful team from last year’s competition is developing the program’s first virtual reality game.

Griffin Park is a fifth-year student in the program and the leader of the development team. He says the game, called Batteries Included, is an homage to Toy Story.

“You’re a kid in your playroom, and your toys come to life and you have to defend your castle from goblins and aliens and all these toys that have come to life in your playroom,” Park says.

As part of the design program, students have to pitch their games to a panel of industry professionals called the “Shark Tank.”

Park’s team made it through that process last year. Now, they’re hoping to complete the game and release it to the public. Park says he thinks one of their biggest struggles might be finding an audience.

“We’re pitching to a very niche market and we fully are aware of that. The tech is prohibitively expensive, and not everybody has this kind of setup," Park says. "And even then, we’re pitching to a smaller subset of that small subset.”

Virtual reality is gaining some traction in mainstream culture. Equipment is more affordable now than ever; and VR arcades like the one that opened in downtown Bloomington earlier this year provide the experience for people who don’t want to purchase the system themselves.

And research shows that VR is also being used as therapy for things like fear of heights and PTSD – which IU Professor Mike Sellers says could be the future of this type of tech.

Sellers says everyone is still trying to figure out what virtual reality can do.

“If you think about how Google Maps has changed things, where you can say, ‘What does that street look like? I’m thinking about getting an Airbnb, or I want to rent an apartment, what does this area look like?’" Sellers says. "Well, now imagine doing that in a fully immersive situation.”

Park says he and his team hope to release Batteries Included in the spring of 2019.

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