Virtual reality (VR) is an inspiring medium of connecting your vision and idea with a mass audience, and there has never been something so engaging before. So, is it really a surprise to see that it encourages social change? Absolutely not, and it is widely recognised in both scientific studies and by developers using intuition to guess it out.
There are countless film festivals that introduce incredible ideas as messages to crowds, and it is no secret that VR has been slipping into that scene with no struggle whatsoever. Recently there was one film festival in Canada, the Reelworld Film Festival, and its main aim is to make an impact in terms of social change, and VR made a huge print this year.
At the Reelworld Film Festival, it was said that there were a dozen VR films and games, including stepping into the shoes of a BBC reporter accompanying Iraqi forces battling ISIS in Fight For Fallujah, or even experience the aftermath of the Haiti earthquake in the game Inside the Haiti Earthquake. It was said by the organisers that “Reelworld’s virtual reality films and games will allow festival goers to immerse themselves in some of the most dangerous, beautiful, heart-wrenching, and inspiring locales/stories from across the globe.”
This may sound cliche, but to prove the point all you need to do is simply Google “virtual reality social change”, and you will be lost for hours looking through endless articles about how various organisations are adopting VR to encourage social change.
This year Oculus launched a whole initiative to encourage this type of development, called VR for Good. The goal of this is to challenge creators to get on board VR film programs and bring out a spark in the next generation. There is a whole ecosystem being built around the simple use of VR as a tool to enlighten the masses of what they may be ignorant to – and that is really cool.
Of course this is an encouraging and interesting development, but something that we should also be wary of is how much power we are giving to VR, and how it really does change your perception. Charities have taken on VR to use it as a way to put people into the unfortunate shoes of those they are trying to help, and this brings on strong emotions in those who view, and unsurprisingly it results in heightened donations.
But, what if someone were to abuse this medium? It is easy to see how people can exploit VR for their own personal gain, and so ethics plays a massive part in the evolution of VR as a way to encourage social change. It is a scary concept and something that we should keep in mind with the incredible increase in VR creations.