First iteration of "Alternative Education" scene

ROLE
Designer, Writer, 3D Artist, Project Manager


PROJECT LENGTH
5 Months (01 - 05.2020)


OUTPUTS
High Fidelity Prototype
Dialogue/Script


CO-COLLABORATORS
Alec Bell
Sara Caudill
Suvaion Das
Alex Fan
Kenny Kelley
Chris King
Jack Slattery
Hengmin Wang
How Might We...
Spread awareness of the danger that children in Burkina Faso face in trying to obtain an education and advocate for their rights through immersive storytelling?
GOAL
In collaboration with our client Save the Children, a non-profit organization that advocates for the wellbeing of children in African countries, the primary objective was to create an embodiment-based VR experience on the Oculus Quest for users to take the role of a female child who sees the trajectory of her life among the threats. We were tasked to create a base prototype experience as a guide to be fully developed by Equality Lab.
The experience is targeted towards those who have the means and resources, such as international donors and politicians to advocate for the rights of children in Burkina Faso and spread awareness of the conflict in the region. The main objective for functionality within the environment was to provide a clear scenario to follow without heavily relying on user interaction.
Tools: Autodesk Maya, Unity Game Engine, Oculus Quest

***NOTE: This project was impacted by COVID-19, more details below.
FRAMEWORK
Embodiment: The user takes on the perspective of the protagonist, a school-age child in Burkina Faso
School Attack: The child experiences a traumatic school attack initiated by an extremist group
Risks and Threats: When a Burkinabe child is unable to attend school, they face risks and threats to their livelihood such as being recruited into an armed group, forced marriage, dismembered, killed, etc.
Alternative Education: There are spaces created away from areas of conflict where children can feel safe and obtain the education they deserve ​​​​​​​
Whiteboarding story outline and assets requirements
PROCESS + STORY
Before constructing the narrative of the experience, we conducted initial research (information gathering) about the conflict in Burkina Faso and the ways it impacts the children in the region, aided by resources collected by Save the Children. 
As more information entered our process, more iterations were made in order to capture authentic experience for a child in Burkina Faso. For example, an early idea for the school children to be captured by the armed group was consistent with experiences in Nigeria, but not for Burkina Faso. 
With our findings combined with the desired framework, we formulated a story of a teenage girl named Mariam. She is attending school and witnesses armed group members storm in and destroy the classroom. That night, Mariam's family is unsure of what to do to keep her safe. Their only option is to marry her to an older man who promises to take care of her. However, she experiences abuse from the marriage and plans her escape into the night.​​​​​​​
Mariam's avatar embodied by the user
Mariam's avatar embodied by the user
In the classroom scene, Mariam's teacher is taking attendance until armed group members storm in, order everyone to leave the building and set the classroom on fire.
In the classroom scene, Mariam's teacher is taking attendance until armed group members storm in, order everyone to leave the building and set the classroom on fire.
Mariam is home after the attack and overhears her mother (pictured) and grandmother discussing what to do with her. In this case, she is married to an older man who promises to provide a good life for Mariam.
Mariam is home after the attack and overhears her mother (pictured) and grandmother discussing what to do with her. In this case, she is married to an older man who promises to provide a good life for Mariam.
Mariam's husband storms in and abuses her
Mariam's husband storms in and abuses her
After being assaulted by her husband, Mariam escapes out the window of her room and must find her way through the village at night.
After being assaulted by her husband, Mariam escapes out the window of her room and must find her way through the village at night.
IMPACT OF COVID-19

Due to the lockdown caused by the global pandemic, the team had to work remotely, which presented many challenges such as access to equipment and remaking finished scenes. However, we were able to stitch together our work and furthered our collaborative efforts. 

Initially, this project was meant to be a competition between two different teams of designers and developers. However, the project became a collaboration of two teams: My team focused on Mariam's embodiment avatar and story after the school attack. The other team produced the opening and school attack scene. Our team also provided the other character models while we received dialogue audio/voice talent from them. At the end of prototyping, our scenes were combined into one experience (below) to guide the final product. 

While a part of the framework (alternative education) ultimately did not make the final prototype and there were still outstanding bugs, our client gave overwhelmingly positive feedback regarding the gripping narrative, rich characters and immersive scenes.

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