‘A Breathtaking Journey’ increases empathy towards refugees

A Breathtaking Journey, VR experience

A new interactive virtual reality experience has been developed that attempts to increase empathy towards refugees. ‘A Breathtaking Journey’ places the player in the shoes of a refugee who is fleeing from a war-torn country in his/her struggle to escape the increasing violence against citizens. The experience was developed by industrial designers Martijn Kors and Cas Ketel within the ‘Persuasive Gaming’ research project (NWO Creative Industries), led by Prof. Joost Raessens (focus area Game Research).

Throughout ‘A Breathtaking Journey’ the player is subjected to a series of uncomfortable events, representing just a glimpse of the stressful journey to reach a safe haven. Through the physical recreation of a lorry, and by incorporating unique features such as breath control and scent feedback, the player is immersed in a full-embodied experience to see the refugee crisis through the senses of someone who left everything behind in search of a better future.

A Breathtaking Journey, VR experience

Persuasion through empathy induction

The interactive installation has been created following the research-through-design process which provides the ‘Persuasive Gaming’ research project with invaluable insight for the creation of games with persuasive intent, and in particular games that are aimed at empathy induction. Working under the mindset of Amnesty International Amsterdam the objective was to support the fight for human rights and present a more human, yet distressing, perspective on the European refugee crisis.

Dutch VR Days and media exposure

‘A Breathtaking Journey’ premiered during the Dutch VR Days (29 October – 1 November). The experience was selected as one of the “Best of Dutch VR Days” projects and has been featured on prime time national news (NOS Journaal, 30 October, 20PM, starting at 20:45 min.) and various other media (RTL Z Today, 29 October, starting at 5:40 min.; and Radio EenVandaag, 29 October). In December NOS Airtime (for secondary school students) reported on the project at the 2nd edition of 'Playground: Virtual Reality' in Groningen.