樱木梨乃We can start by what we claim at Living Lucid Creative:
Immersion is a continuum. On a typical stage show you are not really involvedin the action, yet we ask you to allow yourself to believe in the world in theplay. If you see a stagehand onstagemove something it is assumed that since they are in black they “disappear”. And some plays break the 4th walland do engage you as the audience. Theymay speak directly to you. Or perhapseven drag you up onto stage. Butgenerally speaking it’s rather passive.
There are many types ofrole playing that are immersive and have been around for years. From Dungeons and Dragons to Pirate Festivalsand Renaissance Fairs. These experiencesvary in immersive levels – some get really into it, even dressing the parts,others enjoy more as spectators. Andbeyond D&D, there are many more immersive styled games out there now thanthere ever were before. They even have aname – COS play. I think the next typeof things I recall doing was attending a new murder mysteries where over snacksor a meal you would interact with the other audience members and the cast todiscover who a murderer was. And, youcould even buy kits that allowed you to have your own murder mystery dinnerparties (these still exist, and even have virtual download options – you caneven do the virtually). One can make agood deal of arguments about what really is an immersive experience verses whatis a immersive theatrical experience. Doesit need to have a story line? Or does itneed to have live actors? I found, in mysearch for connection many different types of things, different types oftechnology, some revolutionary companies, and in some ways a whole new world ofopportunities. While my experiences arenot exhaustive, I will try to highlight some of what I have experienced so thatlater, we can eventually come back to what is immersive theatre, or at leastwhat Living Lucid Creative is working towards.
One of the first momentswhich grabbed me was actually a Netflix Interactive Special called Black Mirror Bandersnatch. It is essentially a choose your own adventurebook, except you make you choices with your remote. I was mesmerized. I spend hours watching it, choosing differentpaths, googling paths – and even following one rare ending path that necessitatedme making over 50 different decisions to get to that one ending – and if mychoices were different at any point – I would not get to that alternativeending! The choices were so seamless –the movie did not pause, it was very well crafted. Netflix has others and some were entertaining,but not, in my opinion matched this one.
One “event” that I didwas called Textback. It was entirely as you can assume viatexts. The premise was a guy had beenkidnapped and I had to help save him. Tosave him I have to do a little research, solve some puzzles, and make a fewemails. The story took place over about2-3 days, but it differs for different people. It was in a way like an escaperoom except there was interaction. Theinteraction was driving by the game though – I would have to wait for the nextstage to begin, though I could wait to engage till I had time or pause it. What is interesting is that the person textingyou doesn’t exist. Sorry for the spoiler– but it is a bot. Once written, this thing can run forever aslong as you pay for the server or whatever it runs off of. There is nothing in theatre that even remotelyexists as somewhat passive income – we work hard for every ticket. I was engaged – and a bit sad when it wasover.
I have watched a largevariety of virtual tours. In thebeginning when COVID first shut down everything everyone had a virtualtour. I couldn’t keep track of themall. And I found that I was oftendisappointed – that Frank Lloyd Wright house tour that I had never seen – was reallyonly a 3 minute into to the house. Toomuch work to find what was good. I alsovery much did not like the 360 tours where you can move yourself incrementallythrough a location. Perhaps it was thatI did most of these with museums and you really could not look at the art orlearn about the art – and the tours would have been better for eitherarchitecture or nature. They also had noaudio content (the ones I did), and they were just not very engaging. A shame as though I suspect a lot of momentwas spent on some of these. Some wereon zoom. Some of these were okay – as longas the visual content of the tour was predominate. Some companies managed this better thanothers. Others were on Facebook Live or YouTubeLive. Generally the best ones give yougood visuals and were knowledgeable about the content. Not exactly theatre – more like attending aseminar. But some were immersive in thatthey would ask trivia questions or otherwise try to engage the audience. Unfortunately – these tours were often moreimmersive than some of the theatre I have seen on the same platforms.
I have done a few showson Discord – the events have themed themselves as immersive theatre, but areall based on role playing, where it is essential for you as an audience memberto participate. Never the same twice –very immersive. Best when everyone canreally engage with the story. Not aseasy for wall flowers to navigate.
I have also tried a fewescape rooms. One on YouTube live had anactor moving the story along, there were filmed video segments, you needed tolook virtually for clues and even send out an email, and we solved the puzzlewith seconds on the clock. It was veryengaging, immersion was done through a chat box, and it had a story line… I had not really previously considered escaperooms as part of a theatrical experience, but this has changed myperspective. I also would not have saida haunted house was theatrical – but if it has a story line and actors, you areimmersed in the event – it probably qualifies. There was a couple of other immersive games, one on zoom and one with acreated internet interface that just did not connect to me personally. One seemed to easy (yet hard to understand)the other was way long and way to complex (it was about Sherlock Holmes).
I have seen some on Instagram,one on twitter – one on a fake pizza website. Intriguing. Some take you one andadventure – some don’t. It’s a bit likethe Wild West – you don’t know what to expect.
The other type that Ihave experienced were audio events. Youdownloaded and listed to a track (play, story) while doing something. These were intriguing ideas to me. Immersive in a different way.
And I am sad to say butas of yet I have not seen a performance yet where I would say the format was asclose to theatre as virtually possible that was good. There was either no real interaction (youcould chat but it didn’t effect the show) and one your input did alter the showbut the show was not easy to understand – and it left me with a feeling that Ijust lost 2 hours of my life).
By the way, I am open toexperiencing as much as I can – so if you know of something let me know. Somethings that I have come across are closedproductions, and it is not always very easy to track down productions (and of courseI have to be budget conscious).
So this is the stew ofthoughts and emotions and types of things that I was engaging in whilesearching for connection and something more.
In some cases thosehosting virtual tours when right back to in person tours when their stateopened up. I felt that was perhaps shortsighted as I would have still paid to see it virtually as often they were notplaces where I would have been conceivably able to go. Not to mention that just because things areopen – doesn’t mean all people feel comfortable going out – and somepopulations aren’t able to get out – virtual immersive content reachesaudiences that live events can’t.
Also, it depending onwhat technology you were using these events could exist for as long as there isa potential audience for them. Obviouslythere could be royalties or rights issues – but the Textback cell experience or the LifelineApp take virtually no support. Therecorded audio files are similar. However, the immersive quality of these are different. There is not a live actor. You can change the story in some cases – in othersyou can’t.
I was also surprised whensome of the shows that were one on one phone experiences with actorsclosed. Perhaps they were not doing wellfinancially? But there are many actorsout there out of work.
Immersive theatre meansmany things. I have not even gone intosome of the large scale live immersive events, which we will look to do in thefuture as well. There are many differentplatforms to use. There are manydifferent levels of immersion. And Ithink each person will find that certain levels of immersion feel right to themand that certain platforms are more comfortable and easier for them to navigate. And Living Lucid Creative is here to help navigatethese new worlds of options and ideas and bring you fresh, innovative andengaging content.