Catherine Feraday Miller is a game developer, animator, and educator. Her career has spanned several animation modalities, from 2D and 3D feature films to AAA Video Games. Catherine is co-founder of Rocket 5 Studios, an award-winning Toronto-based indie game development studio specializing in emergent technologies and XR. Catherine views narrative and character development through a feminist lens and is excited at the possibilities of interactive storytelling. Currently living in rural Ontario, Catherine maintains her animation and game development practices and teaches experimental animation at the Ontario College of Art & Design.
A hybrid research project, Birb Watching is a VR experience can best be described as a bird watching and mindfulness simulator. In this game space, the user can explore themes of connection, the nature of embodiment in a virtual world, our relationships to technology, nature, and mental health, and seek humane responses to the socio-political pressures of living in the era of the Attention Economy and the Anthropocene. Academic research into philosophy, popular neuroscience and modern political theory has been the foundation of the decision-making process through which the game concept has been developed. While the artist has spent hundreds of hours peeping at birds, the experience follows a more playful rather than ornithological approach.
Birb Watching follows the tenets of Cozy Games. Unlike traditional bird watching simulators, Birb Watching will not foster completionist instincts. It is a game that the user can win, but there is no lose state. Birb Watching is a peaceful and gentle experience, allowing for relaxation and a gradual understanding of the relationships that can develop between bird and player, bird and bird, and player and environment. In this way, the user may learn something of their own connectedness to the inhabitants of this world. The user will be grounded in the here and now - honouring the reality of this experience in this virtual biosphere, rooted in a moment and space that exists out of time and place. The game focuses on intrinsic rewards, craft, repetition of mundane tasks and observing and interacting with the environment and the AI creatures within it. Birb Watching will employ hand-tracking to manipulate the virtual world, so other than the VR headset, barriers to play will be minimal.