That time when I learned Unity to create a first-of-its-kind VR concept that taught players about the blockchain by ascending the tech stack levels in a VR environment
People struggle to derive the value proposition of Blockchain when learning about the innovative decentralized tech stack because it’s complicated.
Players become educated about blockchains and a use case while walking, climbing, and zipping through a blockchain tech stack levels in VR to learn about it.
UW Professor and Peers
VR R&D – Graduate School
Learning Unity while building
Blockchain is complicated. The value proposition of blockchain tech can remain unclear and confusing since its diverse layers of converging technological innovations and various philosophical ideas.
As a result, I imagined each blockchain layer as a 3D level that the player ascends to learn about it. So I pursued the question, “Could Virtual Reality (VR) help with blockchain education to help bridge the chasm?”
Figure 1: My quick hand-drawn sketch of the blockchain tech stack levels concept for VR education.
With the research question “How might I educate players about the Blockchain tech stack in Virtual Reality?” in mind; I began by taking a step back from blockchain to examine what people believe happens when they make a purchase at a Point of Sale in a store or an online transaction. I wanted to build the educational story using a familiar mental model, such as purchasing something from the store, so at the beginning of the VR demo, the player could be grounded in an everyday interaction before they ascend the blockchain tech stack levels to learn about its complexities.
So I rapidly prototyped a low-fidelity prototype using action figures, and I conducted a mock scenario with a convenience sample group (friends and family) to better understand what people think happens when they make a purchase at a Point of Sale using a debit or credit card versus when compared to cryptocurrency. I asked questions like “What do you think happens when the transaction was executed earlier at the store but reaches finality on your bank statement a couple of days later?” so that I could build a bridge between their mental model and meaningful educational interactions.
After running the low fidelity prototype testing, while simultaneously learning how to use Unity and its limitations, I narrowed my scope to prioritize the accuracy of the conceptualization of the complex blockchain tech stack layer level before building out the beginning of the story.
Figure 2: I conducted a mock scenario with friends and family using a low fidelity prototype. I inquired about what they think happens when they purchase something at a Point of Sale using cash, a debit or credit card, versus when compared to cryptocurrency.
To progress with my game’s design, I begin learning Unity from my VR class at the University of Washington and through online tutorials. Due to my findings from the low fidelity prototype testing, I shifted gears to focus on educating on one blockchain use case, so I selected PAXOS Gold’s collateralized stablecoin, which uses Chainlink’s Proof of Reserves/Supply for validation.
As such, the game was framed from a data input perspective so that the player ascends the blockchain tech stack as they follow the visualized Paxos Gold weighted data path, then transported through an API where Chainlink Oracles verify the data. Then it is passed to the Ethereum PoW miners, who create consensus, which enables the player to use the stablecoin in a liquidity pool on the Sushiswap dApp.
Figure 3: Using a Game Design Canvas, I organized my idea into various categories, such as required assets or enemy types, to help conceptualize what gameplay could feel like.
Within ten weeks, I solely conceptualized the first-of-its-kind VR Proof of Concept. I learned Unity to develop the game enabling players to explore the blockchain tech stack as a 3D environment while teaching them about one specific innovative blockchain use case unlocked by the technology.
The project successfully enabled me to passionately learn Unity to get my complex concept idea into a digitized environment. However, in its current state, it is a concept with much more room for improvement and is far from a playable educational game.
In hindsight, I should have learned more about audio and Sound usage in Unity before beginning to build. Instead of reading about the blockchain in a video game, the player likely would prefer to hear a voice describing it.
Additionally, teaching the blockchain tech stack in an inverted manner would lead to inaccurate mental models. In future iterations, creating technically accurate level designs and testing which version new students find most helpful for learning would be critical.
Figure 4: The player follows the visualized Paxos Gold weighted data path as its transported through an API where Chainlink Oracles verifies the data and imports it on-chain.