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Unity unveiled the winners of its Unity Humanity Grant program in recognition of games that have the potential for social impact.
After reviewing almost 500 projects, the maker of the Unity game development engine has shared the seven winners of the 2023 Unity for Humanity Grant program. All of the social impact creators receiving funding this year are using real-time 3D to drive change in truly innovative ways.
Projects were judged based on vision, impact, inclusion and viability. The winners will receive a bespoke grant from a pool of $500,000, plus mentorship and technical support to help bring their projects to life. If you have a project you’d like to submit in the future, you can sign up for the Social Impact mailing list for updates about when next year’s grant will open.
Here’s a description of the winners.
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X-Ray Fashion is a VR documentary by Denmark-based XR studio MANND that uses immersive storytelling to educate audiences about issues within the fashion industry.
The project combines virtual reality with corresponding physical elements (for example, when walking through water in the documentary, you walk through shallow water in the real world) to create a sensory experience that takes viewers through the various stages of a typical garment’s production process, from the sweatshop all the way to the catwalk.
The fashion industry is the second-largest polluter in the world, X-Ray Fashion said. It accounts for 10% of all global carbon emissions, and a huge 60% of textiles are thrown away within one year of being made. On top of that, a single pair of denim jeans requires 10,000 liters of water to make.
The creators of X-Ray Fashion recognize that that humanity’s habit of constantly changing our wardrobes and disposing of clothes we no longer like is having a big impact. The creators’ goal is to use this immersive experience to change consumer behavior by helping viewers understand the impact that their wardrobes have on the environment and people working in the industry. Ultimately, the project encourages lifestyle changes such as buying second-hand garments, taking better care of what we already own, and minimizing our overall fashion consumption.
Trying to put how you’re feeling into words when experiencing complex emotions and mental health issues can often be difficult. Sarah Ticho encountered this challenge when trying to describe her grief and mental state to a doctor during a time when she needed help.
The experience led her to collaborate with experience designer Niki Smit to develop SoulPaint, a VR project in which participants create artwork on an avatar that expresses their inner world using color, shapes, movement, and imagery.
According to Harvard Medical School, miscommunication is at the heart of most medical errors. SoulPaint is a unique experience that aims to transform the way we communicate our emotions with others, remove the stigma around mental health by creating a shared experience, trigger impactful conversations and ultimately provide a tool that allows patients to improve communication with healthcare professionals.
Quantum’s Pursuit is a game by Limbitless Solutions that lets children with bionic limbs play the limb-different grandchildren of Dr. Quantum, a tech genius and wizard who has developed renewable energy. Dr. Quantum has been kidnapped by evil Galacdorks trying to steal his invention, and it’s the player’s goal to journey through the levels, defeat the boss, and save Dr. Quantum.
The game allows hospitals to teach children how to use their new bionic limbs in a fun, engaging, and stress-free way, while also gaining insight into the needs of each child based on their muscle strength – information that is usually difficult to ascertain.
Limbitless Solutions provides free bionic arms, training, and even covers travel costs for patients and their families. This incredible project can vastly improve the quality of life of children with limb differences and ease the transition to a bionic limb during an otherwise difficult time.
Follow the Investigation: Inside the ICC
Using VR, Follow the Investigation: Inside the ICC shows International Criminal Court (ICC) cases at various stages of the judicial process. The experience provides valuable insight into how the ICC system works to bring those responsible for crimes against humanity – including war crimes and genocide – to justice, Unity said.
Viewers witness testimonies from survivors of past ICC cases, visit field investigation sites, process evidence in ICC forensic labs, and sit in on courtroom proceedings drawn from a variety of infamous global cases.
This project serves as a somber reminder of and education about the work of the ICC and the process of seeking justice, helping to raise awareness of atrocities and the experiences of survivors to ensure continued global support for their recovery and the work of the ICC, Unity said. The project also offers an impactful way for victims of horrific crimes to better understand the legal processes that relate to their own cases, Unity said.
In World Reborn, an activism adventure game, your goal is to save the world after a cataclysmic event fractures it into multiple realities. The mobile game uses AR to combine actions in the real world with choices in the virtual world, encouraging players to make a difference in both. Real-world actions that help you progress through the game include donating money, picking up trash, completing breathing exercises, and more, Unity said.
About 90% of the 72 million teenagers in the U.S. play video games. Having grown up with an awareness of pressing global issues – including climate change, mental health, and racial injustice – they want to make a difference, but often feel powerless to do so.
The founders of Wicked Saints, creators of World Reborn, worked for the world’s largest peacebuilding organization and trained young movement leaders all over the world. They saw how many lives were transformed using an approach called Common Ground Activism – attacking the problem, not the person. Now, they’re building World Reborn to empower young people with CGA skills and drive change through incremental steps in the real world. You can join their Discord community to get special access and be part of building the game.
A Week at Belisamas Lake
“What would the children of the future think about the mistakes of our past?” is the question that Team Gramps sought to answer with A Week at Belisamas Lake. This narrative-based mobile fishing game follows young Lotus and their grandmother Pearl as they recover 21st-century trash from a local lake in a future where humanity has overcome the climate crisis – and profoundly changed in the process. Using gyroscopic controls, you fish for items, inspect them and listen as Pearl sheds light on relics of the past.
Through a wholesome, optimistic narrative, A Week at Belisamas Lake shines a light on the possibility of a future society in a post-climate change world, Unity said. Weaving together intergenerational relationships and items of the present day, the story examines just how drastically things might change if we don’t take action now, and how meaningful climate action will ultimately change us.
Year of the Cicadas
This one comes with a “trigger warning” as it is about grief. Drawing on the 17-year life cycle and symbolism of the Brood X cicadas, this virtual reality experience follows a mother’s journey to find meaning after the loss of her son. Using personal audio files, music and images, the player is taken on a journey through the mother’s narrative, interacting with the experiences of passing time and grief.
Year of the Cicadas is a mother’s reflection on the power of finding meaning in the most tragic of stories, and how that meaning transforms over time. The goal of this experience is to provide a window into the life-long journey of meaning-making after child loss for those who may know or work with bereaved parents and family members.
And this game comes with a trigger warning about as the content touches on sexual assault and child abuse.
This mobile game is designed for parents who suspect their child may be the victim of sexual abuse or who want to talk to their children about topics like consent. Patito uses minigames to show a young character realizing he is a victim, providing a sensitive approach to educating children and parents on these difficult topics.
According to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), over 4.5 million children are victims of sexual abuse every year in Mexico. Pink Bear Games has created Patito to raise awareness of this issue and help give parents an effective way to communicate about sexual abuse and consent with their children. Their goal is to provide the app for free in an effort to help prevent future cases.
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