“When a Tree Falls” is a VR game experience that aims to address isolation due to the stigma around depression. The hardest part of the journey of getting out of depression is reconnecting with the world, and that is something only you can do. Our goal was to provide a slight nudge to do that. This game experience also serves to generate empathy by taking the player on a whirlwind of emotions that someone in depression experiences.

This is a game made as our serious game for the rapid prototyping project at EAE. Many of us on the team have had experience with different degrees of depression, and each of us coped and “recovered” in different ways. We traced back to our past to look at the emotions that we experienced and how depression affected our cognition towards the world. We wanted to deliver a simple message, “We understand what you are going through, and it’s okay to feel that way.”

Technical Specifications:

  • Development time: Nov 2017 (2 weeks)
  • Unity 2017.1.0f3
  • Oculus Rift
  • XBox One Controller

What I Did:

  • Oculus Rift VR incorporation.
  • Object interaction inside/outside VR.
  • User interface inside/outside VR.
  • Ending credits scene inside/outside VR.
  • XBox One controller incorporation.
  • Dynamic material swapping in run-time for trees, terrains, skyboxes, and fog.
  • Stage triggers for using different materials.
  • Incorporate 2D bird animation and 3D butterfly animation.


Utkarsh Agrawal – Producer / Level Designer
Cheng-Hao “Nick” Chu (me) – Engineer
Zachary “Lynn” Hardy – Engineer
Patrick Benson-Kingsland – Technical Artist / Shader Programmer
Shihao Wang – Environment Artist / Level Designer
Hongming Tong – Artist
Anita Lin – Music Composer

Special Thanks:

Dr. Sara Weisenbach