WATERisLIFE Uses Educational VR game to Make Invisible Monsters Visible to Children
If you think VR games are only good for transporting you out of your living room and not for making the world a better place, the Hidden Dangers VR experience might just change your mind. Created by nonprofit WATERisLIFE (WiL) and ad agency Deutsch, this first-of-its-kind educational VR game makes invisible dangers visible for the next generation in places like rural Thailand, where bacteria, chemicals, trash, and corroded metal are polluting rivers that people depend on for their water, food, and everyday life.
The Hidden Dangers campaign supports fundraising efforts for WiL, helping to drive clean water initiatives and distribution of clean water filtration straws around the world. In addition to the educational VR game, the campaign consists of a three-minute docu-short illustrating the charity’s impact in a remote Thai village as well as a website. Conceived by Deutsch, m ss ng p eces directed the docu-short, and the game was developed by Ntropic + Tactic and directed by m ss ng p eces.
“Clean water is a universal problem, and the Hidden Dangers marketing campaign is a smart, artistic way to bring real-world problems—and their solutions—to the forefront,” said Founder and CEO of WATERisLIFE, Ken Surrite. “We realized that by using VR, we could make the real dangers visible. These children will never forget the monsters they saw, but they also won’t forget how to clean the water and defeat them.”
Chief Creative Officer of Deutsch’s NY office, Dan Kelleher, thinks the project is pointing toward the future. “Hidden Dangers really shows the power VR has as a tool to both educate and inspire children’s imaginations from places all around the world. The docu-short is a beautiful piece that captures the real-life impact of WATERisLIFE’s mission. We’re honored to be part of this very important cause.”
The Hidden Dangers Docu-Short was shot on location in Thailand. The film centers around a young girl named Wanjai, who lives in a small village about a 15-minute boat ride away from the town of Sangkhlaburi, on the Khao Laem River. The river is vital to connecting villagers to larger towns where children can go to school, and providing water for drinking, cooking, and cleaning—but it is often dirty. The docu-short provides a glimpse into Wanjai’s life on the river, follows her journey as she and her classmates progress through the VR game, and as WiL representatives distribute water filtration straws to villagers, a key step toward safer water.
Tucker Walsh, m ss ng p eces director, noted “Working with Wanjai to tell her story and seeing her experience the VR game was truly a humbling and once-in-a-lifetime experience. The team from WATERisLIFE was amazing with community outreach and getting all the locals involved in this clean water initiative—and these are just the first building blocks of an ongoing program.”
The Hidden Dangers VR Game helps teach children how to use the WiL water filtration straws. Developed for the HTC Vive for greater interactivity, the game is populated with monsters representing pollutants—bacteria, chemicals, corroded metals, and trash—in the water. The monsters rise out of the river and players catch them using a straw, making the monsters vanish bit by bit until they finally disappear, mimicking how the WiL straws work.
The game debuted at schools in villages on the Khao Laem River—villages where people are getting sick from dangers in their water they can’t see with the naked eye. In classrooms, kids who have never even heard of VR got an experience they’ll never forget: when they put the helmet on, players find themselves on a river modeled after their own. In the game, as they progress from level to level, they learn how each monster can make them sick—and how a filtration straw can destroy all the monsters with clean water. The game was developed by Ntropic + Tactic and directed by m ss ng p eces’ Ray Tintori.
“This cause is really near and dear to my family, so getting to work with WATERisLIFE and develop what turned out to be a really interesting VR project was rewarding on many levels,” said Nathan Robinson, Founder and ECD of Ntropic + Tactic.
“We had great collaborators to work with and the combined resources fit really well together to execute on the overall creative vision. We were happy to contribute with an interactive game experience that communicates a potentially life-saving message,” said Pete Oberdorfer, Founder of Tactic.
The game will continue to travel around to schools in America and abroad. An Oculus VR version of the game is also available for free download on the WiL website, along with additional educational information.
Hidden Dangers is another in a series of forward-thinking campaigns that WiL has run in the past few years, including award-winning Hashtag Killer, Drinkable Book, and 4-Year-Old’s Bucket List.