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This article was published 22/8/2018 (544 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
A group of instructors and students from Brandon University and Assiniboine Community College are collaborating to build a virtual reality exploration of a First World War internment camp in Brandon — thanks to a grant of nearly $30,000 from the Canadian First World War Interment Recognition Fund.
Research for the project was completed last year, with the help of more than $4,300 in funding from the CFWWIRF.
Now the CFWWIRF has contributed $29,068 in additional funding to write a full script for the project and develop the virtual reality design esthetic package.
"This is an exciting project that will allow us to tell important stories from the past with modern immersive technology," said Derek Ford, interactive media arts instructor at Assiniboine. "Two recent graduates have been brought on to develop this project and both are graduates of our IMA program and the BU fine arts degree. They will represent our academic partnership and our ability to train and develop people to merge art and science into innovative storytelling."
The First World War saw internment camps open across the country, as the federal government began isolating immigrants who’d come to Canada from countries that were fighting against the British Empire. Those countries included areas under the control of Germany and Austro-Hungarian Empire, such as Ukraine and Poland.
In Brandon, those foreign nationals were kept in barracks at the Wheat City Arena, an open building at the corner of 10th Street and Victoria Avenue, which housed hundreds of internees from 1914 to 1916.
All records of the internment camps were destroyed in the 1950s, and the Wheat City Arena was demolished in 1969.
The interactive virtual reality project will delve into the Brandon camp in particular, using a "choose your own adventure" feel, said BU history Prof. Rhonda Hinther.
"Players’ choices will affect their experiences in the camp and give them a chance to interact with a variety of people involved with or interned in the facility," Hinther said.
"We are also looking to highlight the experiences of family and friends the internees left behind. For example, we are considering offering players the chance to select whether they are playing as male or female characters at the beginning of the game. Depending on which they choose, they will either explore in the game as an interned man in the camp, or as an internee’s female relative, trying to survive the war, perhaps on the homestead or elsewhere, without male support."
The current phase of the project is to draft a full script, which will be written by award-winning Canadian filmmaker Aaron Floresco, Hinther said. The students involved in the project will develop a design guide for its physical and emotional look and feel.
When completed, the full virtual reality interactive experience will be available free of charge to the public, online and playable across a variety of platforms, including desktop computers and mobile devices, in both VR and traditional gaming formats.
"To our knowledge, no online digital interactives exist on Canada’s First World War internment operations," Hinther said. "We will be making an original contribution to understandings of the WWI experience in Canada and, indeed, internment more broadly."
The completed project will be made available to any museums who would like to include it in exhibits or web content, to help inform wide audiences of the realities and impact of Canada’s First World War internment operations.
» The Brandon Sun