This past week we faced a major trial: Presenting our experience hands-on to the entire faculty for Soft Opening.
On Monday and Tuesday, we set up our full experience in the ETC’s main lecture hall, the RPIS. We thought this would better simulate the type of setting the installation would be in than simply showing it in our project room. Reception was mixed.
To be clear, our intent had always been to make something for guests unfamiliar with VR. Our client had told us at the beginning of the semester that the exhibit would primarily be frequented by older Board of Trustee members at gatherings, so we designed around that audience.
For Softs, this was both a strength and a weakness. Members of the faculty who didn’t come from a tech background felt the awe and empathy we had worked towards. Faculty who specialized in game development, on the other hand, felt the experience to be lacking. Even though it was in VR, it didn’t function like a game; you didn’t have the freedom to walk around and interaction with the world was limited to what was necessary. You also could not physically attack any of the characters in the experience.
It became clear to us that we needed to posture our experience in a way that people would know it was just that: An experience, not a game. We wanted to make something that takes you through what Frankenstein’s Creature did and how he felt, but not to let you tell the Creature’s story yourself. At this point in the semester there was only so much we could do to clarify that, but we made a few refinements to clarify that.
One unanimous piece of feedback we received from faculty, though, was that the physical installation required much more testing, especially if it was meant to be used without an attendant on hand. In response, we negotiated with the ETC to place our experience in the lobby. Many tours of prospective students and their families were scheduled to come in that week, and so it was a perfect opportunity to do just the testing faculty wanted. To see how the whole thing would function while unattended, we left it alone and monitored it through the school’s security cameras.
A few dozen individuals tried our experience, and about 25 filled out our surveys. As before, it was the naive users who got the most out of it and the gamers who wanted more. Even so, the testing did provide enlightening info in that we saw the ways that guests would interact with the physical installation while unattended. They would pick up the journal entries and leaf through them. They would tap their fingers on the plasma ball and electrometer. And most importantly, they would read the instructions on the board in front of them.
To end the week, Justin Fanzo and Jared rented a U-Haul truck and moved the physical installation to the Posner Center. It fits well in the space and we look forward to seeing how people interact with it at the reception on Friday of Week 15!