What is it?
It is an immersive
experience built in virtual
reality using game building techniques. The project recreates a factual eyewitness account of a crisis in a food bank line at the
First Unitarian Church in Los Angeles, where a man falls into a diabetic coma
while waiting for food.
The virtual simulation is based on 7 minutes of unedited real time audio, recorded by a journalism student during the actual incident. The piece requires wearing special 3D virtual reality goggles and makes the user feel as if he or she is on scene as the crisis unfolds. Provided with a first person perspective through the goggles, the user experiences the news rather than seeing or reading it.
How does it work?
In this virtual reality
news game, the user can be present and walk around in the news story and interact
with other characters in a fully immersive, simulated world.
To construct her
story, De la Peña used game-development tools, Unity 3-D, a body-tracking
system, and a head-mounted goggle display, along with live recorded audio.
"Viewers tried to touch non-existent characters and many cried at the conclusion of the piece"
in LA puts the user literally in the middle of the story, waiting in line for
food with other (virtual) clients of the food bank in downtown Los Angeles.
Although the graphics are
not completely realistic, the VR goggles track steps and movements and,
combined with real audio, provide a profoundly realistic experience that has
triggered deeply emotional responses from users in the past.
Nonny de la Peña: "At the Sundance Film Festival in 2012, viewers of the piece tried to touch non-existent characters and many cried at the conclusion of the piece."
De la Peña
calls Hunger in LA and example of immersive journalism, which she defines as "the use of virtual reality and 3-D environments, built in a gaming platform,
to convey the sights, sounds and feelings of news."
She believes that immersive storytelling is the future of the news and an important way to engage young audiences with news stories.
Why did they make it?
De la Peña is a former Newsweek correspondent and documentary filmmaker. Her purpose for Hunger in LA is to call attention to the growing issue of hunger in the United States.
De la Peña combines facts
and figures with fact-based virtual recreations, which allow for a more intense
and interactive encounter with the news.
She says: “I finished the piece with what I consider to be the first immersive 3D infographic, in which we show the real statistics of one in five Americans being hungry. And the situation is even worse for children.”
Why did we select it?
LA stands out as a powerful, innovative, and fully immersive news experience,
based on real audio recorded at a food bank in Los Angeles.
Rather than using cold facts and figures, De la Peña takes a small scale human drama and turns it into an emotional confrontation with the everyday reality of hunger in one of the richest countries in the world.
Also see Gone Gitmo by the same author.
JFK Reloaded puts the player in the role of Kennedy's assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald. The player is then scored on how closely one's
version of the assassination matches the report of the Warren Commission: the first shot missed, the second hit JFK's neck,
and the third one struck JFK’s head.
The Guardian’s The Refugee Challenge
invites readers to confront the choices real
refugees have to make, in order to better understand what it’s like to look for
a safe haven in Fortress Europe.
Project Syria is Nonny’s latest immersive journalism piece, first shown at the World Economic Forum in Davos in 2014.