Could you tell us about your professional background James?
I started an animation studio called the People’s Republic of Animation when I was 18 years old with a couple of friends. The studio grew over the next 15 years and was producing animated films for global clients. I was, and still am a director and storyteller at heart. In addition to animation, I started and ran a small video games company called Six Foot Kid. Life as an academic only began four years ago when I joined Torrens University Australia, in the design and creative technology faculty.
When did you first get interested in VR and why?
I was working with the ABC in 2017, trekking along the Kokoda Track in Papua New Guinea, capturing material for the educational VR experience ‘Kokoda VR’, when my interest in VR really kicked in. I was immediately drawn to VR as a storytelling and educational medium that could transport users to immersive virtual worlds.
How do you currently use VR?
Primarily for telling stories. As a researcher, I am exploring how an immersive story or narrative can benefit education in schools.
What are your thoughts on VR and the creative process?
I’ve spent my entire professional career embedded in the ‘creative process’. VR poses some new challenges to the creative process, due to the newness of the medium. Tricks and techniques that have been developed for video games or film making, need some adjustment before applying to VR development. Motion sickness is the prime example here. A great idea that might have worked in games or film, would need rethinking if it causes motion sickness when experienced in VR. However, obstacles such as this are important to the creative process and can always be overcome.
What advice would you give teachers and students who are thinking about using VR for creative projects?
Go for it! But always test your ideas in VR. The capacity for VR to provide truly memorable embodied moments is incredible. As a tool for creative projects, it is a very rich playground.
Jame’s latest project, Thin Ice VR, weaves together Ernest Shackleton’s Antarctic survival story with a tale on the effects of climate change.