VR has been touted as a way to broaden perspectives by allowing viewers to immerse themselves in other cultures and experiences. These experiences are certainly immersive, but are they more meaningful to the viewer than, for example, 2D photography? Whether it is cynicism or the realism of understanding that humans evolved with much smaller social and geographic perspectives than those we have today, a more effective way to generate understanding and empathy may be to present the “exotic” object or experience in relation to familiar things. This exploits existing associations instead of tasking the viewers with the heavy emotional work of building them from scratch.
I think it is clear that many people do not understand the significance of climate change until it impacts them directly, and even then it doesn’t always stick. This video is a mockup for a game that attempts to encourage human empathy for the environment by superimposing onto the viewer's own neighborhood real environmental disaster conditions that interfere with simple, familiar features of their daily life. For this prototype, I used Cambridge, MA as the host location, flooding as the superimposed event, and grocery shopping as the mundane task.