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Creating a serious narrative virtual reality game!

I am creating a serious virtual reality game for helping dutch students understand English texts better. The games focusses on improving reading, vocabulary and grammar.

Elevator pitch
I am creating a serious virtual reality game for helping dutch students understand English texts better. The game focusses on improving reading, vocabulary and grammar.

Introduction
Reading an English text at school can be very difficult, especially when the English language is not your native language. Think about it, you are in a very quiet room for about one or even two hours focusing on one thing, trying to understand what the text means. For some people this might be very boring.

There are a few factors what makes reading an English text difficult. To make it post easier to read and shorter, I will skip the whole part about research and list the top four.

- Lack of concentration
- Not understanding about what the text says
- Poor vocabulary
- Poor grammar

So, how am I trying to be of an assistance to students? By using virtual reality!

Virtual reality
The time in which we now live, the time of mass communication, people are increasingly using visual communication. After all, seeing is believing. The message that we want to get across needs to be as clear as possible.

Recent studies have shown that our brain collects images 60,000 times faster than text. Also, visual information remains longer in the memory which provides better transfer for knowledge (Ketterij, 2014).

New technologies like virtual reality can bring these kinds of transfers of their knowledge even a step further. With virtual reality, we do not only see two dimensional, but we can be literally somewhere in the middle of that knowledge, so we can really experience it. It is even possible to touch information within virtual reality (Colgan, 2015). Knowledge is transferred as optimally as possible in this manner and thereby absorbed better, with the result that users will remember it longer (Ketterij, 2014).

The project
The project is focussing on helping students aged 13 to 18 learning how to speak, spell and write in the English language by letting them play a serious virtual reality game. The main focus of the game is understanding the English text. In Dutch we call this "begrijpend lezen". In this game, the students has to complete chapters by reading the text, look for objects and answer questions correctly. By using the Samsung Gear VR, this offers a whole new experience for the students and hopefully this motivates and helps them to learn.

The game is guiding the users through a narrative adventure. The English text that they are reading will be completely simulated in virtual reality. For example, if the text is about a forest, the user will be in the middle of a forest. Giving them a complete visual of what the text is about. They read a paragraph that is in that simulated world and they will be presented with a questionnaire about the text later on. When they have finished reading the paragraph they can go and read the next or previous paragraph by swiping with the finger from left to right and vice versa on the Gear VR. Between these paragraphs they also have to answer questions about the meaning of a word in dutch. When the text is fully completed they will get a total score of that text and see if they have improved since the last chapter. Every time they start my game they will get a new text on a different difficulty, this is where adaptive learning jumps in.

Adaptive learning means that the game is automatically getting more difficult or easier. In my case this will be based on the number of correct answers. If the user answers a lot of questions correctly, more difficult questions or more paragraphs between questions will be activated.

The main challenge for this project is how do I put that much text in a virtual reality game. Reading long texts in virtual reality can make the user very tired. So, my approach is that I divide my game in 3 different elements of the game. Reading, answering and looking. In that way, the user will not be focussed constantly on one thing but alternate between multiple elements. This immediately creates another challenge. Can the user switch between these things? Well, that is something I will find out during testing.

I am aiming this project to be an extra helping hand, it will not be enough to help students with reading an English text. (Unfortunately) They still need to pay attention in school and do their best. Teenagers will likely use this method no more than 10 minutes a day, because it is a more intense way of learning and they can lose concentration after being longer than 10 minutes in virtual reality.

As for future plans, I do not have much in mind. First, I want to take time to develop the game and see first if it actually will work. But If this method becomes successful then this could be a great opportunity to add more languages for every students in the world who is having difficulties with reading! If it works, I will release it on the oculus store and I will take it from there. As for myself, this is a great project to learn more about serious gaming and virtual reality development.

Summary
To summarize things up, reading an English text at school can be very difficult, especially when the English language is not your native language. There are four factors that what makes it difficult to read. Lack of concentration, not understanding what the text says and a poor vocabulary and grammar. I am helping young learnings improving their reading skills by using virtual reality.

I am developing a serious virtual reality game that focusses on helping students aged 13 and 18 learning how to speak, spell and write in the English language. In this game, the student has to complete chapters by reading the text, look for objects and answer questions correctly. By using the Samsung Gear VR, this offers a whole new experience for students and hopefully this motivates and helps them to learn.

For now, I would like to thank you for reading my article, I really appreciate it. I would love to hear what you think. If you have any questions or suggestions, please email me at [email protected]

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