Warsaw Uprising: Scenes from World War II
There is a Chinese curse that reads “May you live in interesting times.” Strange, isn’t it?
Well, not quite…
World War II began with the invasion of Poland by Nazi Germany on September 1 st , 1939. At Westerplatte, where the first attack took place, there is a monument in the form of an inscription that reads “Nigdy więcej wojny” (“No more war”) in commemoration of those events and their cruelty. A monument is a form in which memory is communicated. The question is, however, whether such messages are still of any importance to contemporary and future generations that will decide the fate of our world.
Miguel Rodriguez was right to say: “Virtual reality is coming and it is going to change the way we keep our memories.”
We know that VR is an incredible tool and that it is also used for storytelling. Every story is unique. We can say that VR enables every one of us to experience their own, unique story. The same was true for “The Warsaw Uprising (Scenes from World War II)” project that also involved more than just an ordinary story – the thing was to make it possible for people to experience “interesting times”. In virtual reality, not the one who tells a story is important, but the one who listens to it and experiences it. Using VR, we can develop sensitivity, empathy, and self-awareness in others to an incomparably greater extent through the experience of being in a different place and in a different time dimension. This is not something we can learn from books (although this may sound like heresy).
“Interactive storytelling is not our core competency when it comes to VR, but the topic was so important to us that we wanted to make it come true. Our team includes excellent graphic designers, animators, and programmers, so the greatest challenge for us was to create an appropriate atmosphere and emotion transfer in our production. The project involved much more than just reminiscences of people and events. It also involved memories of places,” said Michał Wyrobek, CEO of 4Experience.
In the works of Arthur Schopenhauer, the 19th-century philosopher, we can find a thought that history is dead unless we discover how to learn our lesson from it. The problem lies in the “experience” transfer when building historical memory and self-awareness. Nowadays it is difficult to build them by reading a book (this applies especially to young people), where casualties are expressed in numbers. Feelings and experiences are not mathematical. Sometimes portraying the death of one human being is more important than providing even the most accurate calculations.
The application also contains elements of “gamification” in the form of the participant’s decisions that affect the plot. If we perform an action, such as reading a note or approaching an object, another chain of events is launched. In a way, it is the user who makes decisions, but the sequence of events launched by every decision is beyond the user’s control, as is often the case in real life. Therefore, this is no ordinary storytelling – this is a way to become part of the story.
All we can do is strongly believe that we will not have an opportunity to live in interesting times and that we will not be exposed to any inhuman attempts to put our morality and humanity to the test. VR is a medium that can change much in this regard.