Storytelling in a Virtual World
Virtual Technology and Design student uses high-tech tools to educate
Oscar Rodriguez has always been a storyteller. He doesn’t tell stories in a traditional way, though. As a student in the Virtual Technology and Design Program in the University of Idaho College of Art and Architecture, Rodriguez, 21, uses virtual tools, such as 3-D modeling software, Photoshop and other design technologies, to make a story come to life.
As a child, Rodriguez, who is from Jerome, Idaho, loved films and wanted to learn how he could create his own. He found his way to virtual technology and design during a visit to campus, before he became a student of the university.
“When I heard about this major, I just remember feeling like ‘Yeah, I feel like I should be here, you know? This is the place for me,’” he says.
Now, being immersed in it, he’s found that his major is full of possibilities. One of his current projects is an online game designed to educate people on the effects salmon have on the ecosystem. Another project he worked on involved augmented reality, which simulates an image in the real world on a device, like a smartphone, through a camera. Rodriguez, alongside his friend Kyle Weage, created a pop-up book that used special symbols on the pages of a physical book to activate virtual pop-ups.
“You can go into all sorts of fields for this,” Rodriguez says. “A lot of people come in because they want to make video games or they want to make animated movies, but you learn along the way that you can apply this to all sorts of things.”
Rodriguez says students in his program can apply what they’ve learned and the tools they’ve become familiar with not only to create designs, stories and games, but also to use their knowledge for more practical applications, such as medical simulations or architectural design. The need for Rodriguez’s kind of work spans different fields and has many applications — especially in a world where jobs are changing as technology changes the world.
“Our professor has said before that they’re kind of preparing us for jobs that don’t exist yet,” Rodriguez says. “We’re sort of a special breed.”
Not only is his work widely applicable, it has a lot to teach him, too.
“I learned how to tell a story, how to design and how to think,” he says. “I’ve also been able to learn a lot about art as well, and I’ve been able to get better at painting and drawing. Everyone has different skill sets; some people are really good at modeling, others at animating — it’s kind of a wide range of things.”
His work is also designed to teach others, which means he learns about topics outside his major.
“When we start a project, we’ve got to research — we have to make sure we’re up to speed with everything,” he says. “If we have a client who wants us to do something science-related, we have to research all there is to know about that subject. We’re essentially showing an audience, and if we don’t understand, they don’t understand.”
Rodriguez’s work focuses much on teaching, learning and reaching other people, and he believes the best way of doing this is telling stories.
“Humans are storytellers,” Rodriguez says. “We have to find a way to tell the story.”
Writer: Madison Billingsley is a junior from Covington, Washington, is majoring in creative writing and minoring in computer science. Her passions include writing, video games and sloths.
Photographer: Kira Hunter, from Emmett, is a junior majoring in biology and minoring in professional writing. She plans to enter the science field as either a scientific writer, GMO lawyer or genetic counselor.