9/11 virtual reality puts user inside World Trade Center and gets public backlash

© Anthony Krafft
A virtual reality app that lets users experience the 9/11 attacks from the perspective of a worker inside the World Trade Center is receiving criticism for being too graphic. The app was not made to be "obscene or sensationalist," its makers say.

The game, called '08:46' after the exact time that American Airlines Flight 11 slammed into the North Tower in lower Manhattan on September 11, 2001, is a narrative-driven virtual reality simulation for Oculus Rift that allows users to "embody an office worker in the North Tower of the World Trade Center during the 9/11 events," according to the app's makers, a group of French university students.

The project was created through "countless hours of research in order to try to properly recreate the atmosphere and dynamics within the top floors of the towers," the makers have said. The app "was designed and developed as a school project during three months by a six members team, working in close collaboration with two actors for [motion capture] and voice acting."

The project has been criticized as tasteless or exploitative of the tragic event. The app's creators, however, insist they did not have sinister intentions.

"In the team, we are all in our twenties," Anthony Krafft, a student at the French school ENJMIN, told Tech Insider. "And 9/11, on a global scale, changed as much our social interactions as our geopolitical context."

The game is not commercial, he said. The team wanted to take on a historical event, and to "remind that 9/11 was, for the victims, first and foremost a workday like every other workday."

"It was essential to us to be accurate, as we could never be obscene or sensationalist out of respect for the victims," he said.

Others are not as open-minded as Krafft. Predictably, the game has fielded much opposition on social media and online discussions, including an at times heated Reddit thread from September, when the app was first introduced.

 

 

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"Why would anyone want to create a real life horrific event? Keep it in fiction please," YouTube user FrankyManky said.

YouTube user Pandemonium Lig added: "Am I wrong or is more than very unhealthy to have seek to make money creating and representing this horror of scene?!!"

Still others believe the app and potential games with similar attributes can provide a lesson about history and ways to prevent conflict, as the events of 9/11 led to two massive, drawn-out US ground wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

"There is nothing Controversial about it," said Reddit user vulkare. "It's simply a re-creation of the events. Since the Rift came out, I have thought 9/11 would be a great subject for a VR experience because it can allow someone to see what that experience was like as if they are there. VR itself is just a medium, so what difference does it make if you watch a documentary about the events of 9/11 or try a VR experience of the same event?"

YouTube user deathpresent101 added: "If anything this is a good idea. hearing the planes crash into the building was scary. If kids were shown this in context to other disasters through out history. It could give kids perspective and real empathy to the situations. And a definite urge not to repeat history."

YouTube user Augure Zera mocked some Americans' double standard regarding violent video games: "Americans, 9/11: 'Boo, why u do no respec memorize of victimz, pls' Americans, Modern Warfare/Call of Duty: 'F*** YEAH, m'gon kill sum dem trrrists, ups sorry fo the bumbs millions of civilize.'"