Playing God

Playing God is an interactive fact-based VR sci-fi experience that lets you imagine you are the captain of a space station, a space station suddenly presented with a humanitarian crisis. The piece extrapolates real word statistics based on the refugee crisis in Syria and the Mediterranean and presents them in a hypothesised thought experiment. An experiment that separates out the emotional and emotive documentation of the refugee’s plight and focuses on a future fictitious space to test the responses on how the audience would deal with a humanitarian crisis. When given the choice, who will they choose to save?

Presenting audiences with a classic lifeboat ethics dilemma, Playing God encourages its audience to interrogate and reflect on their own stance on helping others and sharing resources in a time of need. It presents lifeboat ethics in a new style thought experiment based on the renowned 1970’s ecologist Garett Harding 1974 essay ‘Lifeboat Ethics: the Case Against Helping the Poor’. It plays on Harding’s essay setting it on a futuristic location popular metaphor used by Environmentalists in the 60’s and 70’s of the earth as a “spaceship,” most famously used in Adlai Stevenson 1965 speech to the UN.

Based in this futuristic spaceship location, the piece uses current extrapolated real word statistics based on the refugee crisis in Syria and the Mediterranean and present them in a hypothesised narrative. It explores how national borders are playing a key role in today’s political and cultural discourse, and uses this unique immersive approach to the refugee crisis that places audiences at the very philosophical core of the debate.

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Supported by




Team Members

Ben Fredericks – Lead Artist –
Kate Unwin – Costume & Set/Installation – 
Wayne Mitchelson – Set Artist –
Anthony Clark – VR Design –
Ian Marshall – 3D Animation
James Andean – Sound Design –

With support from
Dr Fabrizio Poltroneria – De Montfort University
Sean Clark – Interact Labs
Peter Bonnell – QUAD
Chris Tyler – Phoenix

R&D Version Produced with:
David Gilbert – Producer –
Tim Brooke – Creative Technologist/Programmer –

R&D // Work so far

With Funding from Arts Council England and D-Labs

R&D Version Tested at the QUAD Derby during FORMAT Festival  // 24 March to 23 April 2017

Installation image from QUAD

During the Format Festival at QUAD a prototype of the VR work was shown to gather feedback on the piece.

It looked at the how audiences interact with the VR headsets. How easy the piece is to work. And whether the piece has the desired effect on the viewer.


Art Concepts:

John Sypher & Wayne Mitchelson – Concept Artist


Low Poly Sketch for Rose Scene

Development images






Greenscreen trials

Actors (left to right):

Kieron Attwood
Katrina Sansone
Leonie Carpenter

Local actors test the script during a Greenscreen trial for the project concept

Script Video – PROTOTYPE version