Coastal Ocean is a series of five web-based interactive games, inviting the players to dive in the coastal underwater area at different times from 1800 to 2020. The five games all together create an immersive journey for the players to time travel through the history of the collapse of coastal oceans. This series of work is done in p5*js and the body tracking technology is based on the Posenet library.
The experiences focus on addressing how global warming and human activities such as overfishing and littering have impacted the coastal ocean ecosystem. Players are encouraged to interact with the games by posing specific hand gestures, including raising hands and crossing hands, are the embodiment of actions that should be taken to protect the vulnerable marine ecosystem. The moments of adopting these particular poses are expected to be inspiring to the players, as they explore the games, the bigger problem of what can we do as individuals to protect the marine becomes evident. The results of human disturbance to the coastal oceans are shown step by step in the first four games, by illustrating the process of fish distinction, coral bleaching, and kelp forest reduction. In the last game Coastal Ocean: 2020, the slogan of “Marine Conservation” is put up, surrounded by the restored ecosystem, advocating for a healthy future for the ocean.
The concept of creating a virtual coastal ocean experience is inspired by two influential works – the classic virtual aquarium screensaver and the documentary film Coastal Seas from Netflix’s Our Planet series. My original idea for this game series was to recreate my own version of the virtual aquarium, a “place” I can stay to enjoy the experience of underwater, to revisit childhood memory, and to achieve peace of mind.
However, as I kept developing the aquarium on the screen, I couldn’t help thinking what if one day in the future, we can all afford a fish aquarium but there is no more fish left in the ocean, and the digital aquarium is all we have as an archived history? The notions of owning, playing, remembering, destroying, and vanishing mixed together in my mind and led me to reflect on my second reference, the Coastal Seas. With the body tracking technology, the question of how to use the way player move their body parts to reflect on marine protection came up. My answer to it is to use simple but culturally meaningful hand gestures to show support and care for marine creatures and the environment. The goal is that with the integrated visuals, sound, storytelling and body movement, players will achieve an intuitive understanding of the environmental issue, and be encouraged to help make the change.