Hollywood visual effects artist creates ‘David vs. Goliath' VR game ‘to tilt scales’ of gaming
Virtuous VR Gaming released its debut VR game, “DvG: Conquering Giants,” just in time for the holidays, and the reimagined immersive experience based on the biblical story of David and Goliath sets out to provide wholesome content for gamers.
“Games are fun, engaging, and a powerful medium to connect with others. There is a lot of game content out there that’s morally degrading, and we wanted ‘DvG’ to tilt the scales more toward the wholesome and family-friendly,” concept creator of “DvG: Conquering Giants,” and former Hollywood visual effects artist Jarom Sidwell (“The Avengers,” “Avatar,” “The Hobbit”) told The Christin Post in an interview.
Sidwell shifted his focus from Hollywood to create education-based experiences in virtual and augmented reality. VVRG also endeavors to create high quality and family-friendly projects. “DvG” is published by VVRG, a new company founded by CEO Bill Issler and Kevin Nguyen, executive director of Visually Linked Bible and who also served on the executive leadership teams for Saddleback and Mariner’s churches in California.
“In ‘DvG,’ gamers will be transported back in time as they embark on a brand-new and fully interactive adventure as they play the part of David, the young shepherd boy tasked with protecting his sheep, family and country from the dangers of the outside world. Featuring two difficulty levels of play (casual and intense), users will fend off ravenous wolves, ferocious lions and massive bears before battling the giant himself (Goliath),” the game’s synopsis reads.
“DvG” is available on Oculus, VIVE and SteamVR platforms.
The following is an edited transcript of The Christian Post’s interview with visual effects artist, Jarom Sidwell, and VVRG Executive Director Kevin Nguyen where they share why they saw the need for this faith-based battle to come to life in VR as well as their goal to continue to create faith-based content.
CP: After working on major projects such as "Transformers" and "The Hobbit," what inspired you to create a Bible-themed VR game?
Sidwell: Before creating our Virtual Reality game “DvG: Conquering Giants,” I worked in Hollywood and New Zealand on films like “Avatar,” “The Avengers,” and “The Hobbit.” I was lucky enough to learn at the feet of Hollywood giants like Steven Spielberg, James Cameron, Peter Jackson, and a myriad of others. I loved watching these amazing directors craft compelling, exciting, and engaging stories, and knew one day I wanted to tell my own.
About four years ago, I founded Immersive History, a company focused on telling the greatest stories from history using the latest technology: AR, VR, and mobile apps. We’ve mostly been focused on Bible stories. So when the opportunity arose to team up with Virtuous VR Gaming to create an immersive Virtual Reality game that put the player in the shoes of the young shepherd boy David (the greatest underdog in history) and face him off versus the meanest giant of all time, I jumped at the opportunity to tell that story: one of faith and perseverance!
CP: What kind of themes are weaved into the VR version of this biblical account of David versus Goliath?
Nguyen: At first, my 10-year-old son and I didn’t start playing the game with the intention of it being a Bible lesson. We wanted to enjoy the game for the action, cinematics and beat up some bad guys. But something came out of this game experience that I didn’t expect. My son started to ask me if David really fought off all these obstacles and the big mean giant, Goliath. But this shouldn't be a surprise with any curious 10 year old. He asks this every time we watch any of the "Star Wars" movies. He’s wrestling with what is fact or fiction and is looking for what he can categorize as truth.
We knew immediately we had to create an FAQ section to help our audience navigate what was biblical truth. In addition, there are intrinsic, universal themes that are embedded into DvG even if you’ve never read the epic biblical story. You quickly realize the first obvious theme is about the underdog (David) who will overcome all odds to slay the enemies before him.
Other themes in the game include hope through persistence. In DvG, you must learn various battle techniques by mastering the sling and learn how to dodge obstacles. By the time you face-off Goliath, you must trust in all the hours of training to overcome the giant. There is no shortcut to beating the giant without persisting through the practice rounds and all boss levels.
Finally, David must trust in the Holy Spirit to seek out his enemies. There will be times in the game where you feel lost or unsure where to find the enemies. You will need to trust in the “helper” that can guide you to the target (an actual feature in the game). For some gamers, they may feel like this is a “cheat code” or “extra spidey-senses.” We’d like to believe there is a supernatural person that helps guide us in life and helps us make good decisions. We hope this at least spurs on good conversations toward seeking truth.
CP: Why do you believe it’s important for the gaming world to also offer wholesome content?
Sidwell: Games are fun, engaging, and a powerful medium to connect with others. There is a lot of game content out there that’s morally degrading, and we wanted DvG to tilt the scales more toward the wholesome and family-friendly.
What I find especially exceptional about VR is how immersive players feel. You literally become the character you are playing, and through kinesthetics, have to dodge, fight, and run.
In one of the boss battles in DvG, you face-off a massive 12-foot tall snarling, angry bear that stands between you and getting the much-needed supplies to your brother. Dodge the enemy’s attack, readjust, get your bearings, and plan your winning strike that will defeat the foe. Good moral principles permeate the story arc and gameplay. Unseen danger lurks nearby, be vigilant. Every sheep is precious. The flock is your family; the family is your flock. You are anointed for great things. It’s been really rewarding seeing players pick up on themes and use it as a base for discussion in the real world. Our hope is the wholesome content provides the start of a foundation for individuals to conquer the giants in their own lives.
CP: What are you hoping happens with the launch of this video game?
Nguyen: We want to raise the level of quality for the whole VR gaming industry and produce wholesome, family-friendly gaming experiences. We’ve teamed up with some amazing partners to produce a high-quality experience using the most innovative technology. We hope to inspire the next generation of developers with Christian minds to be creative and innovate in this space. We want like-minded developers and publishers to push forward to create content that is enjoyable. Whenever possible, we hope these experiences could encourage others to pursue deeper conversations and seek biblical truths.
We’re hoping that publishers and other Christian organizations would see innovative technology, like VR and XR, as realistic means in advancing the Good News. It can be a powerful tool to tell stories, create memories, and impact lives by investing in the next generation of storytelling.
With the current world crisis, VR technology will only become more popular in the areas of education and entertainment. So why not be pioneers in this space and leverage our best minds to create wholesome content in this new digital culture?
CP: Will you work on releasing additional biblical games?
Nguyen: Absolutely! We’ve only just begun. When our team jumped into this digital space, we wanted to raise the quality and awareness for wholesome immersive experiences in the rapidly growing gaming industry. We’ve already begun building a roadmap of future projects and partnerships that are coming in 2021 and beyond. We’re looking into expanding across several different digital platforms: VR, AR, and mobile devices.
CP: Is the Christian gamer an untapped market? If so, why do you think that is?
Nguyen: I recently saw a tweet from a Christian organization quoting a student, “I would like to engage with biblical content, but only if I could play it in a game.” I knew we were on the right track by leveraging the most innovative technology to inspire the next generation in exploring biblical truth.
Gamers are gamers because they love to play games (believer or non-believer). For me, I love playing video games because I personally enjoy them for their stories, game mechanics, and entertainment value. I can enjoy it with all sorts of friends, despite their faith background.
What we believe is that digital experiences can be a doorway to deeper conversations if you want them to be. It’s a tool to help people ask the “next question.” Just as any movie can be used to pull out relevant life themes and start deeper conversations, we hope DvG can do both: entertain and provoke deeper life conversations.
For the gaming community, we do see an untapped market for creating wholesome, family fun that can embrace Christian values. With technology such as VR, MR, and XR, we can make a game more than just “achieving an objective.” We can tell engaging and wholesome stories that are layered on top of the game mechanics. We want to unleash the Christian storytelling community to tell the stories that can captivate all audiences.
CP: Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Sidwell: We would love for you, your friends and your family to experience “DvG: Conquering Giants.” It’s the only game with a sling weapon, the only game that lets you pump your hands to freely explore the world around you and it's rated E10+ for everyone!
Visit the game’s website for further information.