Augmented reality in UW student's The Other World video game shows Red Square under water.
The Other World
Augmented reality in UW student’s The Other World video game shows Red Square under water.

University of Washington Bothell’s Andrew McDonald, a student in the interactive media design program, has long been passionate about video game design. Then he heard about EarthGames, a group of researchers, game developers and students based at UW who create games to inspire climate action and accountability.

“I had done some work with augmented reality before, but had never worked with it to EarthGames’ scale,” McDonald said.

Today, having collaborated with the EarthGames team and honed his own expertise in the group’s studio class (ATMS 495), McDonald is celebrating the release of a game he wrote, coded and licensed.

The Other World, available for free download on iOS and Android devices, is a story-driven, location-based scavenger hunt that uses augmented reality to reinforce issues around climate justice. In the game, players traverse the University of Washington’s Seattle campus. Along the way, they see computer-generated severe weather, flooding, and more. In one scene, UW’s iconic Red Square is completely submerged under rising waters.

Dargan Frierson, one of EarthGames’ founders and an associate professor at University of Washington’s Department of Atmospheric Sciences, says The Other World is quite a remarkable work.

“It’s amazing to me that Andrew was able to make such important statements about environmental justice within a fun and playful context,” Frierson said. “The Other World is a unique new way to communicate that environmental problems disproportionately affect those who are least equipped to deal with them.”

The Other World was inspired in part by McDonald’s November 2016 trip to the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation, during the Sioux-led Dakota Access Pipeline protests.

“It taught me a lot about how intrusive and destructive environmental policies can be on indigenous communities and how it can lead to the erasure of indigenous cultures by separating people from their land and each other,” McDonald said.

McDonald believes his game is ideal for anyone who’s interested in protecting the environment and has half an hour to spare.

“The storyline will resonate with people and stay with them after it’s all said and done,” McDonald says.

After graduating from UW, McDonald plans to pursue a software development job. Eventually, he’d like to start his own game development studio. With The Other World available publicly, McDonald has no immediate plans to jump into a new video game project.

“But you never really know. We could surprise you!”

Story by: Kelly Knickerbocker, kknick@uw.edu

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