By Caitlyn Gowriluk

Liam Constant and Ashley Davis, 3D computer graphics students at Red River College, work on assembling levels of a virtual reality escape room on March 9, 2018./CAITLYN GOWRILUK / THE PROJECTOR

A group of Red River College (RRC) students is working to create two escape rooms at the Exchange District campus that incorporate both physical and virtual reality elements.

The project is a collaborative effort between students from across several programs at RRC, including digital media design, 3D computer graphics and business information technology, and will follow a time travel narrative.

“The story is a college instructor has gone missing in time with the students,” said 3D computer graphics instructor Tom Lepp.

“You have to play the escape room to find clues to where they went.”

In teams of four, participants will enter an immersive experience with constant interaction between the physical space and the virtual reality components.

While programs at RRC have implemented virtual reality into the curriculum before, Lepp said the escape rooms are the biggest virtual reality project they’ve worked on to date.

Students working on the escape rooms all have different roles within the larger project, which mirrors the real-world studio environment that many of the students hope to enter when they graduate from the program, said Ashley Davis, a digital media design graduate and current 3D computer graphics student.

“Getting a taste of what that could be like has been really helpful,” said Davis. “You never really know what you’re in for until you do it.”

Davis is also the level designer for the escape room’s cyberpunk bar – one of the levels set in the future – a role that allows her to compile all the different elements she and her classmates have created into her own vision of what the final product will look like.

“I find all that stuff really cool, because you get to take everything and make it have a personality,” said Davis. “I’m very excited to play through all these levels when they’re done.”
Liam Constant, the designer for the escape room’s dystopian level, said the interaction between the physical space and the virtual reality aspect is part of what makes the escape room project comparable to established escape rooms in Winnipeg.

“The person in VR actually can’t solve the puzzle without people in real life being able to read a schematic,” which encourages teamwork, he said.

Once classes end for the semester, two classrooms at the Exchange District campus will be converted into escape rooms: one room set in the past (P405) and one room set in the future (P418), said Lepp. The escape rooms are scheduled to be open to the public as early as May 3.