Cuboid Cylinder
Industry / Aug 05, 2020 / 4 min read

An expert perspective with Noah Falstein

Please note the below article refers to latest medical practices in helping people recover from traumatic events such as sexual harassment.

 

On Thursday 23rd July, we hosted an Ask Me Anything on our community Slack channel. We were thrilled to be joined by legendary game designer, Noah Falstein. Noah has been part of the game industry since 1980. In 1996 he founded The Inspiracy, one of the world’s longest running game design consultancies. Noah has worked on titles such as ‘Sinistar’, ‘Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis’, and serious game ‘Neuroracer’. He was one of the first ten employees at LucasArts Entertainment, and more recently was Google’s chief game designer.

Over the course of the evening, Noah Falstein lent us his expertise. He answered our questions on breaking into the game industry, serious gaming, the possibility of VR, and more. You can check out the entire transcript on our Slack in the #ask-me-anything channel. Below, we’ve outlined some of the topics and answers that left an impression on the Tecknuovo team.

MedTech with games and VR

One of the key areas focused on during the Ask Me Anything event was the use of gaming and VR in MedTech.

With more studies being done showing the benefit of gaming, it’s unsurprising that this technology – traditionally thought to enhance the gaming experience – has other benefits and uses too.

Having worked with Akili Interactive‘s new release of ‘EndeavorRx’, which has been cleared by the FDA and CE Mark as treatment for paediatric ADHD, the possibilities of gaming is obviously close to Noah’s heart.

He told us about ophthalmologists in Singapore who used a VR headset to track eye movements. The idea behind it was to have patients focusing on a central point. They were to signal when an object entered their peripheral vision. It was meant to be a way to ensure that patients were focusing on the centre point during optometrist examinations. It seemed to be going well except for one patient who’s point of focus kept wondering. After a follow up, they discovered that this patient had a form of schizophrenia and was hallucinating. When the patient was losing central focus, they were tracking where his hallucinations were. The implication of this opens the doors to exciting possibilities in researching schizophrenia.

“It’s a big milestone to have a game be treating disorders on the same level as pharmaceuticals.”

The other story that resonated was about the work that Embodied Labs is doing. Rather than using VR as a treatment, Embodied Labs is using VR to educate caregivers. The VR scenario simulates macular degeneration where the patient loses vision in the centre of their eye. For caregivers to be able to experience what having this lose of vision is like, they’re able to better care for their patients. That advantage of being able to fully understand the struggles their patients are experiencing allows for more specific treatment.

“I like the way that turns the tables and instead of using VR to treat a problem, it simulates it instead.”

Ethics in VR

With the way that tech affects people’s lives, every new innovation needs to weigh the ethical pros and cons. VR is no different.

VR doesn’t only let you be in the someone else’s body. It gives you a real sense of being physically present with other people. Noah shared his experience of when he tested VR therapy. Originally, it was designed to help patients recover from traumatic sexual harassment. It places the user in a situation where they were unable to leave an encounter with a predatory character.

“I had known intellectually how awful that [situation] sounds, but having it happen to me even virtually gave me a totally different feeling of empathy.”

Giving someone the opportunity to experience life as someone else to create a deeper sense of empathy could have a great effect on resolving social conflicts. The flipside of this however is that the brain reacts the same way to a virtual person being near you in VR as it does to a physical person being near you. On YouTube there are plenty of videos showing people throwing their VR headsets when playing a horror game. This shows just how much VR can draw people into what they’re experiencing. Going forward with VR, designers are conscious of the effects it could have on people. By being aware of these potential issues, designers can ensure that VR is as safe and accessible to use as possible.

“I am confident that the good from VR will greatly outweigh the bad”.

Working at LucasArts

We’d be remiss to not ask what working at LucasArts was like. Being one of the first ten employees at LucasFilm Games is an exciting achievement. We asked Noah about his most surreal moments working there. Highlights include hiding under a conference table in the Main House at Skywalker Ranch during an earthquake. Another was Steven Spielberg being late for meeting because he was playing one of Noah’s demos!

“ILM [Industrial Light & Magic] was setting up in the adjacent room to show him some rushes of early work they’d done on his first Jurassic Park movie, some dinosaur animations… We started packing up the computer and mentioned the latest flight simulator game we were working on and how we had hoped to demo it but ran out of time. He asked us if it was on the computer, we told him yes – and he spent another half hour playing it.”

Want to learn more?

You can find the full Ask Me Anything with Noah Falstein on our community initiative Slack channel in the #ask-me-anything channel. You can register to be part of the Slack workspace here.

Thank you to all who took part in the Ask Me Anything with Noah Falstein! A huge thank you to Noah for taking the time out for us to ask him our unanswered questions. It was great to be able to pick his brain! You can follow Noah on Twitter, @nfalstein.

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