AR Game Brings Taiwanese Closer to Their History

Illena Yu
November 20, 2019

The startup Toii has launched a new AR experience that’s making waves amongst smartphone users in Taiwan and the U.S.. Just like “Pokémon GO” of a few years ago, the new game called “Unforgivable: Eliza” takes users on a quest through the cities of Taipei and New York.

The Taiwanese startup integrates an augmented reality (AR) experience with mobile gaming and location-based service. The startup’s aim is to gamify people’s travel experience while presenting them with useful and meaningful information.

AR in Gaming Is Big

The global augmented reality gaming market is currently growing due to technological advancements and an increase in the number of people playing mobile games. AR is the overlay of digital information on the real environment of the user.

Augmented Reality Gaming Market: Global Industry Trends, Share, Size, Growth, Opportunity and Forecast 2019-2024 finds that there is a great demand for AR games and the writers expect this trend to continue over the next five years. Gamers in China, the United States, and Japan are the main drivers behind the growth of this market.

Learning History Through Game Play

In the case of “Unforgivable: Eliza,” the AR experience takes users to a painful time in Taiwanese history. Taiwan experienced brutal authoritarianism under military rule from 1949-1987. The AR experience follows the quest of detective Danny Lin to find his grandfather’s killer. The killing took place during this time of unprecedented political and social upheaval in Taiwan, also known as the “White Terror.”

The storyline for “Unforgivable: Eliza” was written by the well-known Taiwanese-American crime novelist Ed Lin, and the game was developed by the Taiwanese founder of Toii, Allen Yu.

In the story, Danny Lin is a Taiwanese-American cop who has never been to Taiwan. He is representative of many Taiwanese-Americans for whom Taiwan is a foreign country that they know little about. The story takes place in Taipei and New York. You can play the game in the actual city or buy tickets to visit them virtually. The AR/GPS features exist for the following cities: New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, Hong Kong, Taipei, Kaohsiung, Taichung, Hsinchu, and Tainan. Locations in the story are represented by different locations in each city.

“Maybe this game could be an entree to modern Taiwan for a generation that has never been there,” Yu told the Taipei Times.

Learn more about the game here.

A New Trend to Investigate the Past

The AR game by Toii is part of the new trend amongst young Taiwanese to examine this time that their parents and grandparents lived through. Other video games set in the time of the “White Terror” include  “Detention” produced by Red Candle Games and “Rainy Port Keelung” created by Erotes Studio. 

Lin’s story in “Unforgivable: Eliza” is a new way for the younger generation to engage with the country’s past. This AR initiative parallels the larger trend of younger Taiwanese people exploring the realities of their parents’ and grandparents’ lives under military rule.

Toii Inc.

Game developers at Toii use their skills in augmented reality to create virtual gaming experiences. The startup was founded by Allen Yu in September 2015 and is based in Taiwan, New York, and San Francisco.

The startup’s first product was a mobile app that gamifies travel experiences. The game, also called “Toii,” matches tourist attractions in New York City with different themes. When you visit a tourist location, you can earn coins which you can redeem for food or beverage at a store. With “Toii,” you can turn your exploration of NYC into a game. 

Toii is one of the must-see exhibitors at the Taiwanese Pavilion at Slush 2019. In 2017, the company successfully attracted attention while participating in Startup Alley at TechCrunch Disrupt, a platform for early-stage companies to show off their work to attendees, investors, and the press. 

The target audience for “Unforgivable: Eliza” is Taiwanese, Americans, and Taiwanese Americans. That is why the game is available in both English and Chinese, which is quite an accomplishment for an indie game. Those familiar with Taiwanese history can refresh their memory, and those who are not familiar but have links to Taiwan will learn much.

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