The Coventry Blitz In Virtual Reality

The Coventry Blitz came to life once again – through virtual reality. The event took place in the CET building, where a mix of students, workers and blitz survivors who were mostly new to the world of VR, fully immersed themselves in the project. Project manager, Bianca Wright, was present alongside a developer of the project, Sean Graham.

On entrance, you were offered a choice of hot drinks and biscuits or cake. When you arrived in the queue, you would receive a VR headset with a smart phone planted in it; wearing headphones was optional.

One of the helpers would give you instructions on how to navigate around the main screen of the virtual world, which was designed as a classic bomb shelter. The activities available ranged from reading interactive news stories that were previously published by the Coventry Telegraph, that you could choose to be quizzed on later.

There was also a factual game where you became a fire fighter. In the game, you were given the task to hose down rubble fires whilst viewing the legendary Cathedral ruins as it were during the time. With every fire put down, you were rewarded with a fact about the infamous fire. Lastly, there was a photo slideshow displaying images taken from the Coventry Telegraphs’ photo archive, you could view the images in a way that appeared to be 3D.

It was a great way to be able to experience the blitz in a virtual setting, “you could almost feel the intensity of the fire and could imagine the fear and panic that the people who had to live through the ordeal felt” exclaimed Hannah Berkin, a gamer, “I never knew it was that bad”.

Blitz survivors Rosemary Rose and Betsy Mcgibern, 72, had more to add to that.  “Whoever was there, you held each other in fear, not knowing what would happen next. We were only children then” said Blitz survivor Mcgibern.

“Yeah, when my sister was 11 and I was 3 our house took a direct hit and burned for ages, luckily the shelter we were in wasn’t overly damaged – we survived” followed Rose.

Both woman agreed for Virtual Reality to be introduced schools, so that the younger generation will have more of an idea of what happened visually, and through hearing too as, “The siren, screams and bombs were unforgettably terrifying noises”. Mcgibern added, “School children should be further educated about wars, to put them off war, if this does it, I’d be more than happy to see VR progress and expand”.

The Coventry Telegraph already visited schools Cardinal Newman and St Thomas More Catholic Primary School this week.

Graham originally wanted to add four more activities onto the game, however, there was the problem of their team being too small to do so. He believed, “with a few more creators present at the time, we could’ve had the extra support to add other activities in time of the release.”

The purpose of creating the experience came about when the Google Digital institute got in contact with the team asking them if they could deliver a different, innovative way to spread news – VR was the popular choice. When the funding came through, they decided that a factual piece imbedded with a reward system through gaming would be interesting and something the public would enjoy.

As for the future of VR, Graham thinks that there is a big place for it in the industry, and would love to expand on it.

The game is available on the Google play app store.

– Gugu mashava



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