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Permanent is an interactive virtual reality experience about life in temporary housing following the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident in Fukushima, Japan.

Permanent is an immersive interactive narrative in which players take on the role of a journalist. Their objective is to interview evacuees from the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident in Fukushima, Japan, to gain insight into life in temporary housing. The interactive narrative allows players to freely explore a variety of topics ranging from radiation, family, government, and food, to hobbies and occupations.

With limited time for each interview, players have to make conscious choices to either gain a broad understanding of the whole situation or rather dive deep into specific topics.

Players interview evacuees by questioning them about objects positioned throughout their temporary housing, each triggering a short vignette. The gameplay revolves around carefully picking up cues when the evacuee speaks, which prompts the evacuee to further elaborate on the current topic.

The branching storylines offered in Permanent are grounded in an ethnographic study, interviews with evacuees, and additional reports published over the years following the accident, offering multiple perspectives on the issue.

A qualitative study with 78 participants regarding their experience with Permanent was conducted in the Netherlands and Japan. A thematic and content analysis on interview data highlighted that participants experienced other-oriented empathic states more than twice as often as self-oriented empathic states. This matches the hypothesis that a partaker perspective and reflective prompts may help stimulate other-oriented empathy (please note that more research is required to establish a causal link). The analysis generated four themes characterizing players’ experience ranging from participants commenting on experiencing both positive and negative feelings and thoughts, to participants interpolating their game experience with extrafictional objects or events, and vice versa. The study presents novel design insights for fostering other-oriented empathic states through virtual reality games, including the value of diegetic-reflection and the inclusion of topics that help connect the fictional experience to the real world. More insights can be found in the related published papers, which can be found at the end of this page.

Permanent was produced as part of the NWO Persuasive Gaming in Context project at the Eindhoven University of Technology, the Netherlands, to address both the issue at hand and to explore the empathy-arousing capacity of immersive technologies.

Project Details

Developed for

  • Eindhoven University of Technology in Eindhoven, the Netherlands

Developed with

  • Karel Millenaar
  • Rutger van Teutem

Additional help from

  • Maxime Bloemsma
  • Rian Goossens
  • Haruno Ito
  • Kim Hermsen
  • Alyea Sandovar

Responsible for

  • Defining research requirements and hypotheses for design (explorations).
  • Managing project and production team.
  • Carrying out field studies (interviews and focus groups) in Fukushima and Iwate (Japan).
  • Translating study insights into design requirements and opportunities.
  • Scientific grounding and fact checking for design and narrative .
  • Game and narrative design.
  • Writing story script and recording English and Japanese voice overs.
  • 3D modeling and texturing of environment and objects.
  • World building and implementation in Unreal Engine 4.
  • Planning and hosting exposition in the Netherlands and Japan.
  • Carrying out user experience studies and generating design insights.
  • Publishing and presenting related studies.

Exhibited at

  • 2017 Fukushima Film Festival. Tokyo, Japan
  • 2017 Dutch Design Week. Eindhoven, the Netherlands
  • 2017 CHI Play Conference. Amsterdam, the Netherlands

Evaluated in

  • Kors, M. J. L., van der Spek, E. D., Bopp, J. A., Millenaar, K., van Teutem, R. L., Ferri, G., & Schouten, B. A. M. (2020). The Curious Case of the Transdiegetic Cow, or a Mission to Foster Other-Oriented Empathy Through Virtual Reality. Proceedings from CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI ’20), Honolulu, HI, USA. https://doi.org/10.1145/3313831.3376748
  • Kors, M. J. L., van der Spek, E. D., Ferri, G., & Schouten, B. A. M. (2018). You; the Observer, Partaker or Victim. Delineating Three Perspective to Empathic Engagement through Immersive Technologies. Proceedings of the 2018 Annual Symposium on Computer-Human Interaction in Play. Melbourne, Australia. https://doi.org/10.1145/3270316.3271547