Wellington, the capital city of New Zealand, has transformed itself into what is claimed to be the world’s first gamified virtual city.
Virtual Wellington allows people to explore and interact with the city without boarding a plane. It includes an interactive game available for free to download in the Steam and Oculus virtual reality (VR) stores called WellTown, as well as 360 video tours around Wellington attractions, education institutions and workplaces.
WellTown gives VR users a gamified tour around Wellington, which is a compact city surrounded by hills and a harbour, famous for its cafes, art and culture, technology scene and movie industry that’s produced cinematic scenes in the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit trilogies, Avatar and Mortal Engines.
Made up of six short virtual experiences, players can shoot coffee at caffeine-deprived zombies, take an underwater dive in Wellington’s harbour as a whale swims by, listen to the dawn chorus of birdsong in the native bush surrounding the city, busk with a local band on Wellington’s coolest street, stand beneath a starlit sky during Matariki (Maori New Year), and help people leap off a diving platform on the waterfront.
After completing each experience, players receive physical adornment which transforms the avatar they’ve chosen into their best, most creative self.
For those wanting to take a closer look at what Wellington has to offer, Explore More provides the opportunity to immerse themselves in iconic Wellington experiences via 360 video – from an All Blacks rugby test match at Westpac Stadium and the office of Wellington-based global online accountancy firm Xero, to a glimpse of a Weta Studio Tour at the Oscar-winning Weta Workshop.
The game has been created by WellingtonNZ, the region’s tourism organisation. General manager Anna Calver said Wellington is the country’s capital of tech and creativity, and a game was the next step in encouraging people to visit.
Calver said: “Virtual Wellington is about giving people a sense of what Wellington is like as a place, showcasing its creativity and lifestyle through new technologies being developed right here in the city.
“The virtual reality application is a really fun way to explore a place that you might not know much about. It shows off how beautiful our city is, our creativity and our quirky hipster vibe.”
Wellington Mayor Justin Lester added: “Virtual Wellington is essentially a high-tech bottling of the city that allows it to be taken to the world. It will increase Wellington’s international reputation as an innovative tech city with the world’s best lifestyle.
“Even though we’re a small city, Wellington is packed with idea makers, creators and influencers. We’re ranked as the most creative city in New Zealand with a large entrepreneurial community of more than 900 business start-ups, numerous art galleries, events and exhibitions, hundreds of cafes and craft breweries, an Oscar-winning movie industry and top-ranked education institutions.”
Calver continued: “Wellington has a growing cluster of artificial reality/virtual reality firms creating content for a range of domestic and international clients, alongside content made for Magic Leap and Apple by Weta Gameshop and Wingnut AR (owned by Wellington’s movie titans Sir Peter Jackson and Sir Richard Taylor).
“Whatever way you look at it, Wellington is creating the next generation of entertainment experiences.”
Co-founder of Wrestler, makers of WellTown, Kat Lintott said: “[Virtual Wellington] allows people to experience the Wellington lifestyle from afar, showcasing the creative tech talent in the city while also appealing to the legion of VR game fans globally.
“We used city-wide data supplied by Wellington City Council to create the virtual Wellington City and then added a layer of story and gamification through utilising motion capture, CG, 360 interactive video and photogrammetry.”