Good Story — You need a good foundation. We wanted to start with the biggest lopsided duel in history — David, a young, inexperienced, shepherd boy, is challenged by the giant Goliath. A season soldier with a myriad of weapons, to a one on one fight to the death. It’s the ultimate underdog story.
As a part of our series about what’s around the corner for the toy, game, and video game industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Jarom Sidwell.
Jarom Sidwell is a Hollywood visual effects veteran known for his work on blockbuster films such as The Avengers, Avatar, The Hobbit, The Adventures of TinTin, Man of Steel and Transformers, among others. The highlight of his career though was being an especially ugly Gundabad Orc in The Hobbit: Battle of Five Armies. Sidwell created Immersive History, a software company focused on bringing the past to life through immersive storytelling and gaming using Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality, and Mobile Apps. Immersive not only focuses on wholesome games for families but has also created immersive, education-focused training simulations for Kellogg’s, McDonald’s, and Walmart. The next project slated to release under Sidwell’s direction is the VR game “DvG: Conquering Giants” — a reimagined immersive experience based on one of history’s greatest duels (David vs Goliath). Armed with a unique, powerful sling, gamers will fend off ravenous wolves, ferocious lions, and a massive bear before battling the giant himself (Goliath). “DvG” will be available to consumers November 2020 under the publishing company Virtuous VR Gaming (VVRG).
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share the “backstory” behind what brought you to this particular career path?
Movies! Before our Virtual Reality game “DvG: Conquering Giants,” I worked on films like Avatar, Avengers, TInTin and was lucky enough to learn at the feet of Hollywood giants like Spielberg, James Cameron, Peter Jackson, and a myriad of others. I loved watching these directors craft compelling, exciting, and engaging stories. When the opportunity arose to team up with Virtuous VR Gaming to create an immersive Virtual Reality game that put the player in the shoes of young shepherd boy David, the greatest underdog in history, I jumped at the opportunity.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
Well, a definite highlight for me was living in New Zealand and having all sorts of adventures while there. One of those was getting to be an Orc on the set of The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies. I went into it thinking that wearing an ugly mask, carrying a mean sword, and fighting dwarves and elves in the beautiful landscapes of Middle Earth was all there was to it. I was very wrong. Before we began filming, we had a couple weeks of character coaching from Middle Earth experts where we spent long days learning who the elite Gundabad Orcs were and why they behaved the way they did. We walked, fought, and ate while grunting, swiping, and snarling to learn the heart and mind of our characters. I learned that to make a compelling and believable story, you had to know the motivations and choices of the characters involved. So, that’s what we did in “DvG;” we gave our players a way to feel like they were in the mind and heart of our protagonist, David. It’s much more fun when you very literally put yourself in the shoes of the hero.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
You know, my brain works in two capacities; creation and numbers. As much as I love creating and innovation, running your own business begs to have organization and dollar signs, so a large part of what I do is run numbers and look at the bottom line. Working with Bill Issler, the founder of Virtuous Gaming, changed a lot of that mindset for me. He is an amazing, generous, and wise man. As we embarked on this adventure, Bill would remind us constantly that our focus was on creating a wholesome, family friendly game. We were providing fun, active engagement and opportunities for families to connect through discussions of history, underdogs, and strong morals and values. He helped me see the bigger picture, that ROI, key indicators — things like the bottom line are secondary to making something meaningful that has potential to better lives.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
I was incredibly blessed to have worked on some of the greatest films of all time: The Avengers, Avatar, X-Men, Man of Steel, etc. I learned from the best in their craft. And after that success, I wanted to provide a platform for people to learn and share and have fun together. So we built immersiveHistory.com where families can experience Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality, and a variety of other activities to enjoy as family and friends. And we are just getting started; there’s a lot more coming on future projects with Virtuous VR Gaming!
Ok fantastic. Let’s now move to the main focus of our discussion. Can you tell us about the technological innovations in gaming that you are working on?
“DvG: Conquering Giants” is a fun and active virtual reality game! I love games that get your heart racing and take some perseverance. We built in a unique movement set that requires you to pump your hands to move in every direction. And of course the sling! It can be tricky to get the hang of, but so incredibly rewarding when mastered. Think of “DvG” as a more physically active “Vader Immortal” and a more story driven “Creed”.
How do you think this might disrupt the status quo?
Our movement set is so unique! It will change the way we move in VR worlds and unleash how active exploration and interaction in a virtual world is done.
You, of course, know that games and toys are not simply entertainment, but they can be used for important purposes. What is the “purpose” or mission behind your company (Virtuous Gaming)? How do you think you are helping people or society?
This is a great question and one I feel passionate about answering! Our mission here at Immersive History is to develop wholesome entertainment, create interactive educational opportunities, and provide circumstances where families, friends, and strangers can create deeper relationships and stronger bonds of unity. We believe that there is always room for more good in the world, and that’s what we aim to routinely create in a truly engaging platform. And, we were lucky enough to find a partner in Virtuous Gaming that feels exactly the same way.
Tell us about your debut game “DvG: Conquering Giants” and what our audience can expect in regards to gameplay, release, etc.
“DvG: Conquering Giants” will be available for purchase in all major Virtual Reality stores. We start on November 23 in SteamVR and Oculus and before Christmas, it will be available on Oculus Quest, the untethered headset, and PlayStationVR. It’s the only game with a sling weapon, the only game that lets you pump your hands to freely explore the world around you and its E10+ for Everyone!
I’m very interested in the interface between games and education. How do you think more people (parents, teachers etc.) or institutions (work, school etc.) can leverage toys or gamification to enhance education?
The gaming numbers from this last year show unprecedented growth. 82% of consumers worldwide play video games. And one of the main reasons early teens log on to Roblox or Minecraft is to spend time with friends. Interacting in a virtual world while chatting with peers or a teacher is a prime opportunity for learning. Imagine a handful of students and a teacher virtually exploring ancient ruins of a buried city from a bygone era where they all get to talk and chat together about what they are seeing and experiencing. Studies show that experiential, immersive learning significantly increases retention and real life changes in behavior.
How would you define a “successful” game or toy? Can you share an example of a game or toy that you hold up as an aspiration?
When we set out to design “DvG: Conquering Giants” we simply wanted it to be fun. And challenging. If a game is fun and engages the player, it has potential to be something else. After a few rounds, the player catches on to certain lessons — keep careful watch; every sheep is precious; the family is your flock and the flock is your family. These are lessons mentioned in the game and from what we’ve seen provide a great basis for discussion. And, that’s a success to me.
What are the “5 Things You Need to Know To Create a Successful Game” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)
1. Good Story — You need a good foundation. We wanted to start with the biggest lopsided duel in history — David, a young, inexperienced, shepherd boy, is challenged by the giant Goliath. A season soldier with a myriad of weapons, to a one on one fight to the death. It’s the ultimate underdog story.
2. Good Team — It takes a Village. We worked with award winning indie Game Designers, animators from some of the biggest game companies in the world, the motion capture team that worked on The Hobbit movies and developers that have been gaming and engineering VR for years. Additionally, the marketing and collaborative contributions from the Virtuous VR Gaming Team is unparalleled.
3. Be Open — Things change and as you learn new things, be easy to adapt. We had an awesome idea. But then prototyping told us something else — the kids got scared when they saw the wolves surrounding them and trying to eat their sheep, so we changed art direction and made everything a bit more cartoony, light hearted, and a lot more family friendly.
4. Perseverance and Polish — you will fail and be grateful that you do because it gets you that much closer to what you are truly trying to produce. And realize you will continually need to polish the gameplay, the story, the scoring, and everything else. Line on line, a little here, a little there.
5. Simplify — IN the process of designing the battle between David and Goliath in the final level, we went through so many iterations! Goliath jumped up and threw boulders, his soldiers rained spears down on you, and the sheep helped collapse huge spires onto your enemies. All were fun ideas and even fun to play, but they didn’t necessarily add or make that epic battle more intense.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I would hope that families would take more time for one another; that parents and children both could cultivate deeper trust. purer love and truer understanding for one another. I hope that by us producing wholesome content we might provide a platform for people to become closer, more loving, and unified.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“It’s not the years in your life that count, it’s the life in your years.” My wife was diagnosed with cancer about 5 years ago. It was a major life crisis and honestly a wake-up call for me to take an honest look at the way I was living my life. How much was I actually enjoying my daily life, both with my family and on my own? Was I just going through the motions of work and recreation because that’s what I was used to? Or, was I sincerely passionate about what I was creating and trying to put out into the world? I kind of realized that no matter how much time she or I had left, I wanted it to be meaningful.
How can our readers follow you on social media?