A basic lighthearted VR game that promotes daily vegetable eating as a fun and healthy norm.
Genre: Health / Lighthearted
Specifically Targeted Device: Oculus Quest 2
Core Gameplay Mechanics:
The player enters the app to see three bears throwing vegetables toward them, instructions written in the sky, and background music playing.
The player must use the controllers to move around in the VR space and catch the vegetables with their 'mouth'.
When a vegetable is ‘eaten’ a chewing sound plays, and the walls of the room descend.
Once 20 vegetables have been eaten, the bears stop throwing vegetables, the background music changes, a few moments of clapping sounds play, and the walls of the room have now completely descended out of sight, revealing another room behind the player with some decorative items.
The initial instructions also change to congratulate the player on completing the task and prompt them to explore the space.
Having been told to eat more vegetables all my life, I have recently started seeing the necessity of consistently including them in my diet. Since starting to cook more vegetables myself, I have begun to appreciate and enjoy them more. In response, I thought to exemplify this change in mindset about vegetables by making them fun and pleasant through a VR game.
As a VR game, this is not directed toward children. The teddy bears within the space instead speak to the 'inner child' in the adult player, as the game attempts to change a mindset usually developed in childhood.
A big part of ethics within this game comes down to accessibility. Being an expensive technology that many people have not yet had any exposure to, VR is of course not a very accessible medium for the majority of the planet. However, this game within itself can be made accessible. As a game in which the player must use their 'mouth' (attached to the HMD) to catch the vegetables, it is accessible to players with limited or no hand or arm movement. Hands are used when using the hand controllers to move, however, being a VR game, the player can simply move in their physical space instead. This will require having ample physical space to move in, so for future versions, I could possibly consider exaggerated head movements to cause the player to move.
In terms of color accessibility, the vegetables are much more vivid than their surroundings. As the focus of the game and what needs to be caught, this seems apt.
For ease of understanding the game, there are instructions in contrasting colors in the sky. This along with the sounds played makes the aim and progression of the game understandable to a larger selection of people. Furthermore, the walls around the player descend as each vegetable is eaten, visually depicting progression within the game and reassuring the player of what they're doing.
In terms of content, there is a concern about one of the drawings in the space being inspired by a religious painting, 'The Last Supper' by Da Vinci. The drawing is of the last supper but uses teddy bear figures rather than human figures. This is not meant to offend, but also I anticipate this not to be too much of a problem seeing how saturated this particular painting is in pop culture. There are several parodies of it by other artists, and I don't feel like the depiction with teddy bears is particularly disrespectful to the religion, or the original artwork.
Vegetables are an important part of one's diet in an effort to keep healthy. They reduce the risk of heart disease, improve blood pressure, and are a good source of dietary fiber, amongst other things. Within western media aimed at children, vegetables like broccoli are commonly vilified and regarded with distaste such as in ‘Inside Out’ (2015), in which adding broccoli to pizza ‘ruins it’.
With this VR experience, I wanted to subvert this narrative of vegetables being undesirable by making eating them a necessary, core part of the game. Having to either physically move or use the controllers to move, the player is engaged and motivated to reach the vegetable in time. The vegetables are thrown at regular intervals, so the throw can be anticipated, but I have purposefully capped the control movement at a pace where the player may not always reach the vegetable. This creates frustration for the player when they miss the vegetable, and so releases a higher level of dopamine when they do reach the vegetable than if they never missed any. Theoretically, this creates a positive mental association for the player with the experience of eating vegetables. This victory is reinforced by a slightly comical ‘munching’ sound playing, and the walls around the player descending each time a vegetable is ‘eaten’.
Once 20 are eaten, and the vegetable eating quota for the day is complete, they may continue to exist in the world, exploring the decoration. If expanding the experience, I would include further vegetable-related mini-games after this core game is complete, however at the moment, once 20 vegetables are eaten and the walls of the initial room have completely descended out of sight, a second room behind the player is revealed. In the second room, there are two bears sitting and eating vegetables themselves. The congratulatory message prompting the player to explore the space, allows them to go closer to these two bears, creating a virtual proximity to something that would feel distant in a different medium. This proximity to vegetable eating in theory increases empathy with the bears that are eating, and in doing so, breaks down preconceived biases toward vegetables.
In terms of style, I have opted to create all the models in OpenBrush, and the drawings in Procreate, giving them a distinct and consistent appearance. This unrealistic style contains an aura of cartoons and animation in an attempt to associate it with the players’ childhood. Having teddy bears as a central part of the experience, not only as the models doing the throwing and eating but also as drawings on the walls, a similar association to childhood is made. Depending on the players’ background and experiences, the instrumental ABBA music playing in the background can also be seen as nostalgic. Although eating healthy is an important and serious matter, I did not want this experience to be a serious one. I feel the setup of the world along with the subject matter of the game reflects this desire.
Wood panel wall texture
Tiled floor texture
Bear drawings (Last Supper by Da Vinci, Olympia by Manet, Le Déjeuner sur l'herbe by Manet, Two Old Men Eating by Goya, Liberty Leading the People by Delacroix, Marie Antoinette with a Rose by Vigée LeBrun, Poseidon of Melos)
Teddy Bear model with rigged right arm (OpenBrush, Blender)
Broccoli model (OpenBrush, Blender)
Carrot model (OpenBrush, Blender)
Peas model (clump) (OpenBrush, Blender)
Fork model (OpenBrush)
Knife model (OpenBrush)
8 Planes for walls and flooring
Our Last Summer (ABBA) Instrumental (imported from YouTube)
Super Trouper (ABBA) Instrumental (imported from YouTube)
Munching sound effect (imported from YouTube)
Clapping and cheering sound effect (imported from YouTube)