The Talking Dead

A virtual-reality game to help people deal with public speaking anxiety.


round-robin brainstorm -> wizard-of-oz prototyping -> low-fidelity prototyping -> concept validation -> medium-fidelity prototyping -> playtesting -> high-fidelity prototyping -> spec and beta ship -> launch


Grace Guo, Tony Wang, Cameron Erdogan, Nathan LeBlanc


2018 / 4 months

Problem Statement

Public speaking anxiety, or stagefright, affects more about 90% of adults, and there is research supporting the notion that repeated practice can help people overcome their fear. However, it's not always possible to offer people the opportunity to speak in front of a captive audience. Moreover, it is hard to simulate such experiences.


The Talking Dead is a virtual reality game in which players tell stories to an audience of approaching zombies in a graveyard. Each zombie is asociated with a word, and the player must weave that word into their story to kill the zombie before it reaches them. When the game is streamed live on Twitch, viewers can influence the user's stories by providing the words associated with the zombies. Viewers can also vote on the quality of the player's story, which in turn affects the speed with which the zombies approach the player. The Talking Dead uses the principles of embedded design to recreate an environment in which players feel something akin to public speaking anxiety in a virtual reality environment.

Selected Assets

A selection of assets from the prototyping process are presented here.

[Figure 1] Ideas generated from our round-robin brainstorm.

[Figure 2] A game diagram showing the actors, elements, and interactions in The Talking Dead.

[Figure 3] A low-fidelity diagram of the scene at The Talking Dead showing a score-card on a wall.

[Figure 4] A low-fidelity diagram of the scene at The Talking Dead showing a score-card on a podium.

[Figure 5] A labeled diagram showing the different elements of the game screen as seen by the live audience on Twitch.

[Figure 6] A high-fidelity screen showing the player (i.e., "storyteller") view in virtual reality.

[Figure 7] An animation showing the chatbot in which Twitch viewers interact with the game in real time.

[Figure 8] A video showing the highlights from a session of The Talking Dead's gameplay.