Potentials for learning history through role-playing in virtual reality

Danzhao Cheng, Eugene Ch’ng

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


Virtual Reality associated technologies can now digitally record tangible cultural heritage to a level of realism represented within virtual environments. Present trends in virtual heritage research concentrate on the authenticity of, and accurate representations of sites and objects. Such reconstructions, although visually complete, are culturally and historically fragmentary and may not convey the inherent significance of heritage in a meaningful way. To contextualise heritage reconstructed in 3D in a way which can convey more historically contextual information, a narrative-based, guided role-playing activity may be an approach. Such an approach can articulate cultural and historical elements with digital models, as well as facilitate the creative synthesis of virtual environments. Our experiment with 80 pairs of participants suggests that role-playing in VR can be beneficial for learning history in many ways. Firstly, it creates thematic interactivity which encourages users to explore the virtual heritage entertainingly with concrete task-oriented goals rather than a mere visual, linear exploration of models. Secondly, the experience of role-playing can become highly engaging since users can interpret the historical context through the perspectives of specific roles that existed in past societies. Thirdly, personalisation allows open-ended sequences of virtual expeditions, and thus reinforces user acquisition of procedural knowledge relative to the specific historical context. In conclusion, role-playing in VR poses great potentials for experiential learning as it allows users to explore and interpret historical contexts in a more entertaining way.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages18
Publication statusPublished - 2020
EventACHS 2020 ‘Futures’, 5th Biennial Association of Critical Heritage Studies (ACHS) Conference. - London, United Kingdom
Duration: 26 Aug 202030 Aug 2020
Conference number: 5


ConferenceACHS 2020 ‘Futures’, 5th Biennial Association of Critical Heritage Studies (ACHS) Conference.
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom


  • experiential learning
  • virtual reality
  • virtual time travel
  • maritime Silk Road
  • role-playing
  • virtual heritage
  • digital heritage


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