This Play Will Be VR’d In Front Of A Live Audience

on Friday, Aug. 28th

Okay, I don’t like to just replicate Press Releases, because that’s stenography not reporting. Once in a while, however, something comes across the desk and I just don’t have too much to add but I do want to share. So here it is.

A production house in the SF Bay Area known as The Department of Badassery is putting on a new play next month called Don’t Be Evil. In broad strokes: it’s about surveillance culture. That wouldn’t be all that newsworthy by itself, theatre companies put on new plays all the time–it’s true, you should really check some of them out they’re sometimes quite breathtaking.

What’s interesting about this one is that The DBA has teamed up with a Virtual Reality studio called CloserVR and they are going to “film” the piece in VR. Oh, and they’re selling $5 tickets to that taping–on what is essentially their preview night. It just might be the first event of its kind, I know that I haven’t heard of another like it. (Not that I’m omniscient in this universe.)

Full Press Release and all the fiddly details after the jump.




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‘Outer Wilds’ Goes Where No Game Has Gone Before: Equity Crowdfunding

on Thursday, Aug. 27th

One new game is exploring two new frontiers.

It can be hard to get excited about crowdfunding campaigns—especially video game crowdfunding campaigns—these days. At least for the right reasons. When it’s not business as usual the stories are usually about sketchy circumstances or failures. The bloom, as it were, is off the rose.

Which is why the news early this month about Fig—the new, video game focused crowdfunding platform—was so welcome. The new platform is does three things differently than Kickstarter, the crowdfunding standard. First: it is video games only. Second this is a platform that allows equity crowdfunding right alongside rewards crowdfunding. Finally, Fig will host just one campaign at a time.

The first game to benefit from that focus is Mobius Digital’s Outer Wilds, which made a splash by winning the Seamus McNally Grand Prize and Excellence in Design award earlier this year at the Independant Game Festival awards.

I spoke with Alex Beachum, creative director at Mobius Digital and Outer Wilds’ principle creator and Avimaan Syam, producer at Mobius Digital about the project and pioneering campaign.


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The Legacy of ‘Mega Man’

on Tuesday, Aug. 25th

An Alternate Timeline Adventure With the Mega Man Legacy Collection, Sort Of

The following is not a review, because as—theoretically—an adult I don’t have the time to plow through six Mega Man games while trying to hold down the rest of my work duties. This is in a large part due to the fact that I no longer possess the side scrolling skills I once used too. Nor do I have the pattern matching recognition abilities of an old Mega Man champion.

You see, although I owned an NES during the classic era of the Mega Man franchise, the Mega Man games were never part of my Nintendo diet.

This wasn’t due to a dislike of the series, but just the fact that my mom was broke and I couldn’t have every game that I wanted. I got about two games a year, max. Unless I went and held a yard sale and got rid of some of my toys. Something I still regret.

Instead I would gaze longingly on the maps of the levels of the various Mega Man games as published in Nintendo Power and other video game magazines. Much of my current fascination with “retro” games comes from the fact that it was a path not taken in my childhood. Now with very little effort, I can download these gaming classics and experience them more or less as they were originally intended.

So what follows isn’t overview of the glitches, the plot lines and fidelity of the complete Mega Man Legacy Collection but instead a glimpse at how well this digital box set evokes the alternate universe where I grew up with a life full of Mega Man.

(Perhaps in that universe they spelled Berenstain with a Y.)


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INTERVIEW: Comedian Jonah Ray Hosts VR’s Big Awards Show

on Tuesday, Aug. 25th

The nominees are out for the second annual Proto Awards, which “honor the efforts of trailblazers in immersive media.”

Hosting this year’s ceremony in Hollywood is comedian Jonah Ray.

Jonah is the co-host of The Meltdown with Jonah and Kumail on Comedy Central and of The Nerdist Podcast with nerd impresario Chris Hardwick. I spoke with Jonah Ray over the phone yesterday, about the hosting gig, VR, and what surprises have come from hosting a show in the back of a comic book store.


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Fusion’s VR experience takes viewers inside a fusion reactor - Image: Samsung

The Indie VR Scene Is Real, So Says Wired

on Tuesday, Aug. 18th

This Wired piece about how Samsung is putting its money—and all kinds of other resources—where its mouth is on virtual reality is all kinds of interesting.

The emphasis is on VR cinema which has all kinds of technical and artistic challenges, but which also creates magic when it works right. That doesn’t mean that the piece shies away from the problems.


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Video Games Get A Whole New (Crowdfunding) Platform (Kinda)

on Tuesday, Aug. 18th

Kickstarter has a new competitor today, at least when it comes to video games.

Fig—led by Justin Bailey the former Chief Operating Officer for Double Fine, the game studio that kicked off the game crowdfunding crazy—has made a somewhat splashy debut in the gaming corner of the Internet today.

There are two big differences between Fig and ye olde Kickstarter: for, uh, starters Fig is part of the wave of post-JOBS Act crowdfunding sites that offer up equity in the finished product.


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Creative Commons image:

All VR’s A Stage: Presence, Story, And The Birth of the New Medium

on Wednesday, Aug. 12th

Virtual reality—as both an art form and an industry—is still pretty much uncharted territory. The maps that we do have, limited as they are, come from other disciplines. Film and games are the two mediums that are most commonly evoked when talking about VR, and we will likely maintain that status for some time.

There are, of course, incredibly good reasons for this. Familiar language lets us wrap our heads around strange and novel concepts. Yet the practice still leaves creators and observers longing for a creative language that belongs solely to virtual reality—or at least to the “immersive” craft of which virtual reality may one day be the most widespread form.

The current generation of VR pioneers have set “presence” as their North Star. Edward Saatchi is the producer at Oculus’ Story Studio, and I spoke with him at the recent premier event for Henry—the studio’s second short cinematic experience. We started our talk by establishing a baseline: I wanted to know how Saatchi thought of “presence.”


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VR Cinema Gets The Hollywood Glamour Treatment

on Thursday, Jul. 30th

The other day I got to check out Oculus’ newest VR cinema short Henry. It’s about a hedgehog who loves to hug, and doesn’t have any friends. This piece isn’t about that (no, that’s this piece, over here) this is about the event that Oculus held. (more…)

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Murder! Mystery! And A Wedding! Finding ‘The Lost Tears’ or ‘The Accidental ARG’

on Wednesday, Jul. 29th

Christian Marcus is in over his head, and I can tell he’s loving it. Hopefully it won’t kill him.

Marcus, a scenic designer by trade who is the wizard behind some of the most beautiful bars in LA (No Vacancy, Butchers and Barbers, Pour Vous), and his fiancé Erika Diehl have found themselves at the center of a web of lies and deceit that is being teased apart by a couple of thousand people around the world.

That is, they’ve started an Alternate Reality Game, of sorts. Partially by accident.

The Lost Tears of Kali first came to the ARG community’s notice thanks to an article in the LAist which teased the existence of the fictional city of Empire Falls. The online component of the game has more in common with early text based adventures than the Rube Goldberg-esque ARGs of the Aughts which were bankrolled by movie and game studios looking to build up rabid fanbases.

What piqued my own interest wasn’t the online component, but the lure of the live events that are a promised part of the Lost Tears package. The spaces that Marcus designs are some of my favorite in Los Angeles, each crammed full of details which suggest layered narratives. This makes me eager to learn just what he has up his sleeve when story is the point and not a side dish.

As it turns out, live events are the entire point because Lost Tears grew out of—and remains a key part of—Marcus and Diehl’s wedding plans.


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Kickstarting A Quest for the Fountain of Youth Inside ‘The Grand Paradise’

on Monday, Jul. 27th

I tend to talk a lot about how seeing the immersive theatre show Then She Fell was one of the peak experiences of my life. That one production crystalized years of thinking about performance, theatre, and storytelling for me in one magical night. So you can imagine that when I saw that Third Rail Projects, the creators of that show, had turned to crowdfunding to make their next large-scale piece even more spectacular they had my full attention.


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Prepare Yourselves For The Personal VR Video Revolution

Virtual Reality is rapidly approaching a watershed moment.


Ralph Echemendia

Spoiler Alert: Hollywood Isn’t Taking Cyber Security Seriously (LA Film Fest)

Tonight at the Los Angeles Film Festival, squeezed in between movies and red carpet events, a symposium on Cyber Security is being held at the Grammy Museum.

Gumroad Rentals H

Rent Video Straight From Social Media Via Gumroad

The people who brought the “Buy Now” button to Twitter are going all-in on film distribution.

Siegel's NOME meditation machine.

Hacking Consciousness: Silicon Valley’s Next Frontier

Is there something that lies beyond the quantified self movement?

Detail from the cover of Snow Crash.'

Bright, Bold Future: Magic Leap Has Hired The Godfather of The Metaverse

There’s a rapturous term thrown around by VR enthusiasts: “The Metaverse.” It is a term that comes from the seminal Neal Stephenson science fiction novel Snow Crash, where it described a kind of embodied virtual reality.