Ignite VR

Ignite is a powerful virtual reality (VR) experience that makes you feel, self reflect, and explore themes of inner child, trauma, depression, mental health and more. Words have weight, especially those you say to yourself. To me, Ignite is like VR therapy where people get to put back the sparks they’ve lost and re-ignite their world.

Ignite won a prize at the CS Project Showcase Spring 2022 and was exhibited at the ITP Spring Show 2022, which is a 2-day exhibition with a foot traffic of over a thousand people each day.


Ignite was inspired by a therapy session during the darkest depression of my life. During the session, the therapist asked me to imagine my feelings were packed into a ball and to throw it far away. I found it difficult to “imagine” and it felt awkward. Fast forward to 2 years later when I tried the Oculus headset for the first time, a lightbulb appeared. VR is such an immersive medium and maybe I could use it for therapeutic visualizations, similar to the ones my therapist suggested at that time. Thus, Ignite was born.


Inspired by what I would personally want to experience to connect and heal my inner child, I came up with this idea of my inner child being chained by giant words. These words are words that have been told to me so often as a child that I have unfortunately internalized them. Connected to each word, I can see the journal entry I wrote about what that word means to me. Beside each chain, there is a bonfire that is unlit. In the world, the goal is to find the different colored flames and try to match them to the correct bonfire to break the chain. Thereafter, the word transforms into a more positive word and eventually, the inner child is set free.

Word transformations:
Failure → flair
Ugly → lovely
Fat → Fab
Worthless → worth

Design decisions

Process: How I built ignite

1. Building grabbable flames
My first shader!
Looks pretty cool!
But it's on a quad so it's flat... not "3D" like I expected... ☹️
The fire is grabbable—success! Although the positioning of the grab needs to be refined, have the fire sit on your palm or something more natural instead, the basic functionality works!
2. Grabbable fire snap into log
Grab and snap interaction works!
3. Layout of assets
Managed to lay out everything and tried the grab and snap interaction here as well which works!
4. Remade flame (works with grab and snap!)
Managed to make flames using particle system and it grabs and snaps well YAY!
5. Journal entries interaction
Journal entries open and close successfully!
6. Interaction: Each flame uniquely snaps and breaks chain + triggers word animation
Major bug: Fire will collide with each other when close to each other and start flying, do I put them in separate layers or tags?

*Bug was fixed by ensuring that each flame does not collide with each other

7. Final touches
There was an audio bug as well and I conducted some initial playtesting without the audio. After I managed to fix the audio not playing with a new script, I tested with players again and the sound design made a huge difference in the experience and increased immersion and evoking feelings and empathy.  During the playtests, users highlighted the slowness of the player and how it took a long time for the player to reach the inner child from the start. Hence, I adjusted the motion of the player to move faster in the world and received satisfactory feedback.
Playtesting before the exhibition at ITP Spring Show 2022


In the future, my hope is to allow people to personalize this experiene with their own words, journal entries and heal together. It could possibly be used as a therapeutic intervention as well.

Adding a trigger warning directly into the VR experience will be good.

Feedback from the exhibition also highlighted that I had to account for people who had no idea how to use VR controls. Maybe designing a onboarding part before they start the experience would be helpful to help them get used to the controls.
Users interacting with Ignite at exhibition