Playing God

Playing God is an interactive, immersive Virtual Reality (VR) artwork using a branching, multi-option narrative. It’s a narrative journey punctuated by abstraction; once the VR headset is put on, the viewer will find themselves in a futuristic multi-colonised solar system, where they play the part of the Captain of a spacestation facing a huge humanitarian crisis, where thousands of refugees seek refuge at their door. The viewer playing this role directs the narrative making critical decisions based on the ethical dilemmas confronted them – in effect ‘Playing God’.

Modelled on the refugee crisis in the Mediterranean, the work uses ‘Lifeboat Ethics’ – which asks you what you would do if you were captain of a lifeboat with fifty people on it, and room for ten more, but a hundred people were swimming in the water. Who would you save and why? – to explore different philosophical viewpoints on ecological management and the value of human lives. It aims to challenge the viewer’s preconceptions through a branching narrative using the Socratic Method – asking and answering questions to develop and discount opinions – so to evoke a deeper engagement with the work’s ideas.

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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

Kate Unwin – Costume Design –

Research for Science Fiction Costumes // PDF Download

Colours for costumes // PDF Download

Initial costume design







VR installation ideas // PDF Download

Research images: Artist Tony Smith


Development images: Early Sketches

Development images: Early 3D Model of installation

Anthony Clark – VR Design


Research for video interface

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 – None 360 version