Players get a chance to ape reality

Article by Annabel Hepworth

The Canberra Times, 18 January, 1998

Tom Barbalet has launched a CD titled Escape from Nervana. But he's no grungy - or suicidal - rock star. A 21-year-old physics and philosophy student at ANU, Mr Barbalet has designed a new virtual-reality computer game.

The Australian Film Commission funded development of the game, in which players assume the roles of apes marooned on a tropical island who need to work together to escape to safety.

At the launch Chief Minister Kate Carnell said she had hoped Canberra would become "a Silicon Valley for the rest of Australia".

Developing the game was a tough slog, Mr Barbalet said. He often worked until after midnight because he is studying for his degree at an accelerated pace. The game was designed as an educational tool as well as for entertainment, with players learning about survival, teamwork and protecting the environment.

"They can experiment with killing fish or increasing the ant population and see what effect that has on the ecosystem," he said. "There is a really strong environmental message, after I saw the monkeys of South East Asia losing their homes in Malaysia."

Sales from the CD-ROM would fund free downloads of the game from the Internet, he said.

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