“As video game developers, we have the ability within virtual worlds to challenge the biased ideologies that exist in the physical world, rather than continue replicating them”
—Danielle Olson, Project Co-Lead and Doctoral Candidate, Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL), MIT
Race and ethnicity impact many experiences in the physical world, few of which are algorithmically modeled in virtual worlds. Passage Home VR is an interactive, virtual-reality, narrative game that simulates various coping strategies employed by individuals when encountering racial discrimination. The game seeks to meaningfully engage players from a wide range of identity backgrounds in transformational virtual experiences.
In the game, the user assumes the virtual identity of an African-American girl whose high school teacher has accused her of plagiarizing an essay when, in fact, the character is a passionate, high-achieving English student who took the assignment very seriously and wrote the essay herself. Users navigate the discriminatory encounter with the teacher, and the ways in which they respond influence the outcome of the game.
The developers say that this approach simulates how people think about race and applies a theoretical framework informed by sociology, cognitive science, artificial intelligence, and human-computer interaction to develop racial and ethnic identity representations.
D. Fox Harrell, Project Co-Lead; Professor of Digital Media and Artificial Intelligence, Comparative Media Studies/Writing and CSAIL; Director, Center for Advanced Virtuality, MIT
Danielle Olson, Project Co-Lead and Doctoral Candidate, Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL), MIT
Launched: Presented in 2019 at the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence (AAAI) Symposium
MIT Center for Advanced Virtuality
MIT News: Virtual Reality Game Simulates Race Experiences
Modeling Racial and Ethnic Socialization for Interactive Storytelling