Virtual Reality in the Libraries: Game Engines

Game Engines and VR:

Game engines are the powerful software used to create computer or video games. Game engines are also the backbone of virtual reality games and applications. And there are a lot of game engines, complete with different features depending on your needs:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Game_engine

The good news is several game engines are free to download and use. Engines like Unreal (examples of games), Unity (games), and Cryengine (games) only charge for licensing or royalties on commercially released games.

Game engines like Unity and Unreal usually allow the easiest path for development on virtual reality platforms like Google Cardboard or Oculus. These game engines will allow you to export directly from the game engine to the platform with relative ease.

If you are interested learning how to use these game engines for development, resources like Lynda and Skillshare have excellent courses as well as YouTube pages run by Unity and Unreal. Also, hackerspaces (“community-operated physical places, where people share their interest in tinkering with technology, meet and work on their projects, and learn from each other”) are good places to collaborate with other developers.

Advice for Libraries:

  1. Find partners in the community. Whether academic or public, it is important to find people outside the library who are interested in VR. The aforementioned hackerspaces are good resources but so are faculty at local colleges and universities. Several schools (universities, college, k-12) have student clubs that are interested in coding. Reach out to these groups and gauge their interest. Most people passionate about VR would be interested in collaborating.
  2. Identify your audience. Ask yourself a few important questions. Who is interested in this technology? What benefit will they receive from using this library service? How can I express this benefit to my audience in a meaningful way? Marketing is always an important part of any new service; it is important to take the time to answer these important questions and develop a plan of attack
  3. Identify partners in the library. New programs cannot be a one-man show. It is important to bring in other staff members or volunteers to aid the cause.
  4. Set aside the money and space. The financial burden will come from purchasing the virtual reality hardware ($400+), computers that meet the minimum system requirements ($1000+), and potentially IT staff (effort of $50k+ staff) to support the technology. Grants (Teen Tech Week) are also always a good option.
  5. Provide the tools. It is important to download the game engines and other SDKs, which are largely free for educational purposes. But also connect people to the learning like Lynda and Skillshare as well as YouTube pages run by Unity and Unreal.
  6. Be enthusiastic. VR is fun. So have fun developing this program.

This work is part of the series “Virtual Reality in the Libraries”.