A Game Named Life

From Animal Play to Transformative Experiences through Life-Like, Hyper-Realistic Full Immersion VR environments infused with serious games elements

Step 1 : Mammals and birds have the brain capabilities to play (games) in order to simulate future stressful situations. This will help them adjust their stress response as to be more successful in the future when shit gets real.

Step 2 : As acts of play cannot possibly simulate every important situation within environments, animals developed the ability to dream, that is, to simulate an infinite variety of future (stressful) scenarios based upon the trained neural network acquired through observation and play

Step 3 : Since dreaming is involuntary – its contents volatile and often ridiculous – homo sapiens developed the ability to convey future stressful situations by means of stories, narratives if you will, inevitably leading to the birth of human-invented drawings, art, plays, theatre and literature. Often, these outbursts of human creativity had its origin in the (actual) dreams of the creator.

Step 4 : These new inventions were inherently passive and knew few interactions. It merely consisted of  absorbing the prepared information in the hope it was put to good use by the receiver. The next step was to build these narratives within the framework of an actual video-game, giving rise to the interactive and immersive qualities of the stories that unfold while playing video games. These video-games, like regular board games, also introduced the concept for playing ‘just for sheer entertainment’, while all other forms of human narrative telling had the function of teaching other humans something important (drawings of dangerous qualities of wild animals, Greek tragedies, romantic novels), which could of course be enjoyable alongside its main function.

Step 5 : The incredibly stable exponential growth of computing power rapidly turned the visual capabilities of video-games and digitally generated content into almost life-like 3D visualizations projected onto 2D screens. The gradual improvement of not only graphics, but game design, mechanics and psychology, led to the development of serious games, alongside a widespread cry for new ways of learning. Like video-games, serious games can be enjoyable, but their primary goal is to prepare or practice certain skills more efficiently than was otherwise deemed possible. Step 5 is where we currently find ourselves

Step 6 : Although ultra-high graphics, plausible interactive scenarios, sound psychological theories and attractive ways of visualization ensured that serious games had decent training effects on most humans in many different fields of application such as the military and healthcare, many overlooked how serious games could train soft skills as well as hard skill. The Forest was the first serious game to actively pursue the goal of improving cognitive, inter-and-intrapersonal skills of human beings, preparing them for the 21st century. It did so, by using virtual reality (VR), moving away from the standard way of viewing information from a 2D screen, and actually immersing oneself into a parallel, life-like reality.

Step 7 : Like video-games, VR was rather crude at first, and has seen a learning curve for developers and designers. After sufficient time, humans have created such vast amounts of (gamified) virtual environments and scenario’s and have seen such a steep rise in performance and technology, such as haptic technology, brain-computer, sound and olfactory interfaces, that like dreams, there is an almost infinite amount of possible environments and scenario’s where anyone with a VR-set, regardless of background, can equally practice, play, prepare and learn, significantly reducing human errors and suffering within actual reality. We are all animals. We all like to play. If we can all play together in our virtual reality, we can also play together and get along in the game named Life.


Author: Ruben Boyd

My name is Ruben Boyd, an aspiring science journalist and a graduate of the Cognitive Science Research track of the Artificial Intelligence Master at the VU - William James Graduate School. My roots lie in Psychology, and in 2014 I proudly obtained my Bachelor of Science at the VU Amsterdam.