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VR designer helps people experience what it was like to play in the Negro Leagues

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

How does it feel to be totally immersed in a game that you've only read about in history books?

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

A virtual reality designer is helping people experience what it would be like to try on the spikes of baseball players in the Negro Leagues of the 1940s.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #1: (As character) Hey, rookie. Show me that arm.

INSKEEP: The game is called Barnstormers: Determined to Win. And it was developed by Derek Ham.

MARTIN: Ham is an associate professor at North Carolina State University. He says he doesn't think of it as a video, but more like a short, interactive film.

DEREK HAM: There's a screen in front of you. There's a division. You're still in your living room, and you're watching those things take place in front of you. VR breaks that barrier. And so instead of saying, I'm watching something about the Negro League, you're role-playing through it.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #2: (As character) Strike.

INSKEEP: Ham says the game is meant to offer a sense of the acclaim that the players received and also the racism that they experienced on the field.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #3: (As character) You boys got the folk around here real worked up.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #3: (As character) They all excited about your Negro baseball. Circus show, if you ask me.

HAM: When you want to share the feelings of another person, it doesn't have to just be pain and suffering. You could also feel what it's like for triumph or a story of triumph through pain and suffering...

(SOUNDBITE OF BAT HITTING BASEBALL)

HAM: ...To give you that experience of like, man, these people are out here. They're out here to see me, even though I'm not in the majors, even though that door was closed. You know what, we're going to make our own door, and we're going to make our own space and do it at the highest level over here and have fun.

MARTIN: Barnstormers: Determined to Win is available on the gaming platform Steam.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.