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Augmented reality game enables players to get a Japanese Canadian internment experience

Titled East of the Rockies, the game has been played by upwards of 100,000 gamers since its March launch. East of the Rockies is an AR gaming application developed by the National Film Board of Canada and production company Jam3. It takes users on a journey to the past that exhibits instances of art, history and first-person perspectives within a Japanese Canadian camp setting.

Joy Kogawa, an 83 year-old woman born in Vancouver is responsible for developing the narrative for the application. She is renowned for her work Obasan, which is a 1981 novel detailing the internment and oppression faced by Japanese Canadians while the Second World War was going on.

Obasan, which offers the accounts of a child, is similar to East of the Rockies, which also details the viewpoint of a young character, named Yuki. She is a 17-year-old teenager taken forcibly from her home, and imprisoned at the internment camp in Slocan city.

User who participate in the experience can follow the narrative by performing gestures and actions like swiping, tapping, observing and closing in on key subject matter within the scenes. Upon interacting with the experience, a narration performed by Anne Canute, the granddaughter of Kogawa is initiated.

Canute has always been aware of her family’s internment past. She elaborated about being fortunate that her grandmother Kogawa spoke about the past internment experiences openly, which is actually uncommon for someone from her generation. In her experience, hearing old people from that generation talk about internment is quite rate. However, Canute has kept hearing her grandmother’s internment stories from a very young age.

Jam3, a design and experience firm based in Toronto, is responsible for the concept of East of the Rockies. It has got in touch with Kogawa regarding the possibility of an augmented reality-based experience that would make an internment camp come alive for players.

According to Canute, Kogawa expressed excitement regarding the company’s concept, even while being unclear regarding what it really would be. Canute was brought into the fold by Kogawa herself.

Jam3 were on the search for someone who would step into the shoes of the main character’s granddaughter within the narrative. Canute was considered as a suitable match for performing the role.

Canute lent her voice for the project and helped to perfect the scripts.

Players who participate in the East of the Rockies AR experience can enjoy it for up to an hour.

The segment when the granddaughter character examines her family’s history is Canute’s favourite part of the experience.

East of the Rockies which launched during the early part of March, has already seen more than 112 thousand downloads, based on statistics from NFB. According to Rob McLaughlin, executive producer of the NFB studio in Vancouver, the number of downloads have been more than expected. He acknowledges that the success stemmed from Joy’s proven reputation and the rising popularity of augmented reality.

East of the Rockies is available on the Apple store.

East of the Rockies / NFB



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