Virtual reality has long been used for training simulations in fields from medicine to welding to vehicular operation, but
simulations involving more complex cognitive skills present new design challenges. Foreign language learning, for
example, is increasingly vital in the global economy, but computer-assisted education is still in its early stages.
Immersive virtual reality is a promising avenue for language learning as a way of dynamically creating believable scenes
for conversational training and role-play simulation. Visual immersion alone, however, only provides a starting point.
We suggest that the addition of social interactions and motivated engagement through narrative gameplay can lead to
truly effective language learning in virtual environments. In this paper, we describe the development of a novel
application for teaching Mandarin using CAVE-like VR, physical props, human actors and intelligent virtual agents, all
within a semester-long multiplayer mystery game. Students travel (virtually) to China on a class field trip, which soon
becomes complicated with intrigue and mystery surrounding the lost manuscript of an early Chinese literary classic.
Virtual reality environments such as the Forbidden City and a Beijing teahouse provide the setting for learning language,
cultural traditions, and social customs, as well as the discovery of clues through conversation in Mandarin with
characters in the game.