Educational Game

Killing Them Softly: Virtual Reality Training in Project Termination

The use of virtual reality (VR) as an innovative educational tool in higher education has been rising steadily, as being actively engaged in a learning activity has repeatedly been shown to be beneficial for learning (Price et al. 2003). This major research project explores the potential use of VR for ‘soft skills’ training by addressing two main questions: 1) How can we train individuals for complex work environments without exposing vulnerable students to potentially harmful situations?; and 2) how can we create these environments with a role-player simulation? This research paper builds on how VR combined with digital storytelling can be used to build on communication skills training. It suggests that by creating a prototype for an impactful VR experience,students can improve their communication skills, and demonstrate higher levels of goal completion required to successfully bring a project to fruition in the 21st-century creative workplace. Mirroring real-world engagements, users assume the role of the manager while working through these virtual challenges in three distinct steps; preparation, delivery, and transition. This novel research suggests that there is a way to effectively combine traditional role playing techniques while adhering to the new digital standards.
About the Author
Emily Hall

Emily graduated with an Honors BA in photograhpy from Sheridan college in 2019, where she focused on creating surrealist imagery with a transcendent view of subject and place. This not only applied to her still images but how she presented these works with various physcial mediums. Emily's work was featured in various shows during her time at Sheridan. All of which can be seen on her website. In late 2019 she transitioned into the MA of Digital Media with an interest in immersve storytelling and digital education. It is her goal to create immersive stories within a virtual reality ennviromnments used in an educational setting. Since joining the program Emily has taken on a positon at the Ryerson DMZ as a special projects ambassador.

About the Project

‘Killing them softly’ is a virtual reality game aimed at soft skills training for young managers entering the industry. The game is based off of a written scenario used in a ‘Management in Creative Industries’ course at Ryerson University. The intention of this research project was to explore the value of virtual reality based learning exercises in a higher learning environment. Its value would be determined by how well it not only reached but exceeded the expected learning outcomes from the exercise, whether the game allowed for better information retention, and how well written curriculum could be converted to a digital medium.

The game was based off of an initial written scenario in which a manager within a game studio must inform their employees of a project termination. My own research took me in the direction of; how virtual reality can be used in education, delivering bad news to team members, phenomenology and pedagogy to understand how the initial scenario could be expanded into a full length game.

The end result is a choose your own adventure style based game, in which the users passes through three key phases, all of which have their own sub-levels, focused on the key steps of delivering bad news effectively (preparation, delivery, transition) and is able to witness the outcome of various options throughout the process while still in a safe environment.

This project was changed dramatically from the very start of COVID-19. The way things panned out really ended up being a testimony to the project and that you can only plan so much and must be willing to adapt to the circumstances. The intital plan was to the filming portion of the project in early March and have a beta version prototype ready for april and actually be tested within a classroom setting at Ryerson university, then iterations were to be made based on continued feedback. However when the university closed, almost everything changed. There was a lot of fear that I would need to change the entire physical component of my MRP, the game itself, and thus slightly affect the research component. Since on campus was the original proposed filming location, and where all of the necessary equipment was being held. If I was unable to film the various scenarios needed for the simulation, the entirety of the game would have to be changed and possibly start from scratch. At the time, the only appropriate thing to do was create an alternate plan should filming be not allowed to happen and continue as planned with the research and preparation of the original plan. In late June, the school restrictions had lifted slightly, allowing my supervisor into his office so that I could get access to the 360 camera needed for filming. This was nearly three months after the school had closed. After this things took off unexpectedly. With provincial rules changing to groups no more than ten people, I would be able to film. However, in the initial project outline there were easily more than twenty people initially needed to film the script. But in order to adhere to proper safety protocol at the location of filming (The Ryerson DMZ, and place of employment at the time) the cast needed to be narrowed down to six people including myself. This called for a massive rewrite and planning. Once the filming was done at the first opportunity in early July things seemed to be coming back together and it seemed like the game would actually be a possibility. While COVID presented many challenges to this project, the most difficult one was figuring out a way to present this project on our industry day. The initial idea was to have two or three headsets and run the game for live users. The new challenge was figuring out a way to allow users to still play the game but from the safety of their own homes. So the game was uploaded to a web platform where anyone with a google cardboard could play at their convenience, and a recording of the game play was uploaded to YouTube where users could observe the game play. Other materials such as the intended lesson plan and debrief questionnaire were available for preview. At the end of the day the project came together better than I could have hoped considering what has been going on, and I look forward to developing it further and moving into the user testing phase.