Decked out in the necessary virtual reality gear, Diego, 13, resembles more of a futuristic mini-spy than your average eighth grader.
In fact, they all do.
The group of 15 to 20 middle school-aged kids, along with their adult mentors from Catholic Big Brothers Big Sisters — the oldest Southern California-based chapter of Big Brothers Big Sisters of America — are participating in an afternoon outing of VR shenanigans at the flagship IMAX VR Centre in Los Angeles.
Diego removes the headset and steps out from inside the pod. He has just finished playing Raw Data, a futuristic-set game where the players compete to destroy robots.
“That was fun,” Diego says, slightly out of breathe.
It’s a scene of obvious excitement — and exertion — not uncommon among the rest of the group as the afternoon carries on.
Sponsored by IMAX in partnership with Catholic Big Brothers Big Sisters, the event, which often saw the kids — or “Littles” as they’re called by those in the organization — pitted against their mentors — or “Bigs” — in mini-VR battle royales, was organized as part of IMAX’s corporate social responsibility program — IMAX Big Picture™ — an initiative aimed at using film and technology as methods of effecting change in meaningful ways.
IMAX employee Andrew Almendras, who has been Diego’s Big since Diego was eight, first brought the opportunity to IMAX. Since joining the Company in June 2016, Almendras said he has been searching for the perfect tie-in to bring the companies together.
IMAX VR provided just that.
Rosario Di Prima, Vice President of Programs for Catholic Big Brothers Big Sisters, agreed.
“Activities like these help our Bigs because they’re planned and sponsored,” Di Prima said. “It’s also about building a relationship.”
Those matches who attended the IMAX VR outing were invited based on age — Big Brothers Big Sisters works with kids aged 6-18 — and involvement rewarding those who are most active.
Almendras, in fact, represents one of the chapter’s most dedicated members. Next month, he’ll receive the MVP Big Award at the Catholic Big Brothers Big Sisters, Los Angeles, Champions for Youth Awards Gala.
Almendras also was submitted for consideration of the National Big Brother of the Year Award.
Diego stands on the opposite side of the VR pod waiting for the current group to finish their experience. He’s with a few other “Littles.” Almendras is not too far away.
The game is Eagle Flight — a multi-player game in the same vein as capture the flag, but with eagles.
As the previous group finishes, the IMAX VR Crewmember asks Diego and the others how they’d like to divide up: Bigs vs. Littles?
“Yeah!” the Littles agree.
Everyone listens intently to the Crewmember’s instructions, careful not to miss anything that may give the other team the slightest advantage. Once she has finished explaining the rules, the Littles gravitate naturally toward their seats, put on their headsets in just a few swift motions, and begin surveying their new virtual surroundings.
The excitement is palpable. The countdown begins, and it’s game on!
— By Andrew Stewart, Manager, Corporate Communications