Amazon Aid Foundation is pleased to welcome creative partners, Jason Parks and Emir Cerman of ROTU Entertainment to our Artists for the Amazon initiative. ROTU’s mission is “to inspire, entertain, and empower humanity inside and out of the virtual world by creating stories that will help make a positive impact on the world.” Their mission is fully inline with ours which is inspiring change to protect the Amazon. They have already collaborated with AAF in Mercury Uprising as well as Anthem for the Amazon
That’s a pretty tall order, but as purpose-driven creators, their goal is to raise the bar in the gaming world by creating innovative and exciting games that have a positive message with the hope to help teach empathy rather than destruction.
Jason and Emir both went to the Berklee School of Music. They believe that music is a universal language and created a game that teaches music theory as well as conservation based on the story line. Their virtual reality IONIA is the first in a series of purpose-driven games with each game learning about a different cause.
How did you first become inspired by the Amazon?
Emir Cerman – CCO, ROTU ENTERTAINMENT: Growing up in Istanbul, Turkey, I was extremely into documentaries and always enjoyed learning about our planet. I had a particular curiosity about the Amazon, and spent time as a young kid dreaming about exploring the unknown there. To this day, the Amazon’s diversity of flora and fauna, almost like an alien planet, inspires my creative work. I eventually made it to the Amazon along with Sarah Dupont who invited me on the journey of my dreams, but the reality of destruction I found haunts me to this day.
Jason Parks, CEO, ROTU Entertainment: As a musician, I spent time performing in Brazil in my early 20s. The devastating effects of deforestation were apparent even in the brief time spent exploring. I was cognizant of the headline issues facing the Amazon. Still, it was not till engaging with the Amazon Aid Foundation for the Mercury Uprising and Anthem for the Amazon projects that I realized the global effect was genuine.
How does the Amazon Rainforest and environmentalism manifest in your work?
Emir Cerman: Seeing the consequences of unfettered greed in the Amazon was a truly impactful moment in my life and has shaped my creative philosophy ever since. I believe in giving more than you take. I believe in the power of empathy, and know that the key to the survival of our planet is an active, engaged, emotionally-intelligent, environmentally-conscious generation that demands more from those in power. That’s why any project I have gotten involved with over my career, whether stage shows, documentaries, or VR games, have had a focus on purpose and our collective power to make the world a better place.
Jason Parks: I believe entertainment is the key to instilling forward-thinking, empathy-driven generations. For me, any project I work on needs to reflect those values. Social and environmental awareness is my focus. The illegal deforestation and gold mining happening in the Amazon Rainforest has been at the top of the list of issues to address.
What first made you think about instilling empathy into video games/virtual reality?
Emir Cerman: Early studies on immersive entertainment have shown VR can be a powerful tool for creating empathy and inspiring action. As a personal empath, it was the first thing that came to my mind when I experienced VR the first time. As I explored the current landscape, I saw mostly games and entertainment that focused on violence and saw an opportunity to create something meaningful that could hopefully inspire more empathy for the environment and our interconnectivity to the world around us.
Jason Parks: When I tried Virtual Reality for the first time, I saw a whale swim next to me. It felt real; I felt humbled. Immediately after, I ripped off the VR headset and claimed, “This is what I’m doing with the rest of my life!”
Then and there, I knew that VR had a future and a chance to change the world. I am determined not to let violence and mindless gameplay overtake this entertainment medium as it has done to traditional PC and console games.
Investors must support developers who make compelling games that are nonviolent. Developers need to focus on messaging that matters. Users need high-quality game options, so they do not feel forced to keep buying murder simulators.
You would not believe how difficult it is to find investments and marketing support for nonviolent games. Get the word out! Help break the cycle!
Explain the concept of Story Living.
Jason Parks: Per the definition by ecocunsultancy.com, “Storyliving can be a way to enhance a brand’s authenticity. Essentially, it is when a brand does more than just tell a story, and takes action of some kind – whether that’s to encourage positive behaviour in others, support a cause, or create meaningful experiences.”
In VR, Storyliving takes on a whole new meaning… Imagine stepping into the body of a character, through creative game design, feeling compelled to do good. Storyliving is the future of storytelling.
On one more note, VR headsets are rapidly becoming cheap and easy to use. The mass adoption has already started with the Oculus Quest 2, and Storyliving is a vital new genre.
How did you become involved with the Amazon expedition that you went on?
Emir Cerman: In 2009, I had the idea to bring together musicians from around the world in one room to collaborate on a song called, “Anthem for the World.” Sarah Dupont was moved by the unity and hope created by the Anthem for the World project, and together we decided to use this creative force for good to highlight the growing danger of illegal gold mining in the Amazon. I put on my Director’s hat and we brought together hundreds of talented kids from all over the world to sing a song for the Amazon and pair it with powerful footage captured in the Peruvian forests to help inspire change.
Jason Parks: As an Executive Producer of a small video crew, I had to wear several “hats”. It was necessary to attend the expedition to oversee the equipment, capture, and storage of vital raw content used in production. Production had many obstacles, including high fidelity remote audio and video capture and the team’s wellness.
Though the trip was challenging, it was an unforgettable journey that has instilled a love for the Peruvian land and people. I will never stop fighting for their safety.
Did you have role models or mentors that instilled such a strong sense of helping others?
Emir Cerman: Yes, I did! The first and most influential was my mother, Muge Cerman. Growing up with a strong feminist, and independent autonomous woman helped shape me as a young man. I was lucky to have very geeky parents, who shared a passion for the idea of better. They both offered plenty of support and encouragement, planting the seeds for my growth as a purpose-driven creative.
My Grandpa was also a major influence for me. He was a captain and Master Chief in transatlantic containerships. I grew up listening to his stories from all over the planet—it was the most interesting part of my childhood. He sparked my innate curiosity, and is one of the major reasons I became an artist and storyteller.
And, of course, Captain Jacques-Yves Cousteau, the perpetual adventurer, explorer, conservationist, and general multi-hyphenate extraordinaire.
Jason Parks: Honestly, No. I grew up in Jupiter, Florida, where a natural love of wildlife was instilled. Attending Berklee College of Music shared with me the concept of global citizenship with empathy for not just what directly affects me but for all issues we face as a collective.
Maybe it is the fact that I am an only child, an independent personality, or my introverted tendencies, but no mentor has made it into my life. As for role models, Steve Irwin shared that wildlife is to be protected, Elon Musk shares a glimpse at a sustainable future, and the team at Mobius Digital, who created one of the greatest nonviolent games of all time, Outer Wilds! So many others should be on this list.
As composers and musicians, do you hear the music in your head? Or do you hear part and compose from there?
Jason Parks: For me, both. Creating music is a journey that involves an iterative process, but usually, the entire initial idea is fleshed out in my imagination. At ROTU, we write the music first. We are allowing auditory inspiration to reflect in all other aspects of production.
Emir Cerman: It really depends. You never know when a source of inspiration will strike. Sometimes I hear an animal sound or see a visual and it can trigger something inside unexpectedly. I play multiple instruments, but percussion has always been my focus, and because of that, I do think rhythmically more often. When I am going to write a story, I usually hear the soundtrack so I do create musical mockups then I go write the scene or the story. I encourage people to do whatever works for you to tell the story. Don’t ever limit yourself. Others will always try to limit you, so why not strive to be boundless?
How does making music translate to making virtual reality?
Jason Parks: VR is dimensional, and audio can come from a tree behind you or on the ground to the left of you, audio feel as if it comes from anywhere. Luckily music production provides all the tools to do this and more! Making music generally forces users to learn complicated software that directly translates to VR development. Understanding a “3D” or “sonic” environment is essential for mixing and mastering traditional music, which directly translates to VR development. In other words, VR feels like the next stepping stone for music creators.
Do you feel that one discipline leads to creativity in the other? And vice versa?
Jason Parks: Funny enough, PR and marketing have pushed my creative side more than any other aspect of VR game development. Understanding what users want to see and hear helps bring a flood of ideas to the branding table. Creating store images, gifs, and gameplay videos has been a wonderfully creative endeavor.
Emir Cerman: For me, one discipline would be staying inside my comfort zone. I believe the comfort zone is one of the most dangerous places for any artist and creative person. By embracing change and discovering new ideas, we are able to push ourselves into territories we might have never thought possible. Bold, innovative ideas come from the unique combinations of experiences, so I never like to stay in one mindset
Having just launched your Rhythm of the Universe: Ionia trailer, what exciting things do you have in the pipeline?
We are excited for people to play Rhythm of the Universe: Ionia in full once it releases on September 23rd, 2021. We are already working on new games and virtual production projects that we will be sharing more about soon! As with Ionia, every game we make will incorporate a purposeful partnership with a non-profit. If you want to learn more, please stay in touch with us by following us on our socials and signing up for our email newsletter!
Amazon Aid Foundation is glad to be continuing our collaboration with Jason and Emir. Their company, ROTU, is marrying conservation, empathy, music and video games in their compelling Virtual Reality game IONIA, we can’t wait to see what else is in store.
For more info on ROTU:
Anthem for the Amazon