This weekend we attended Raindance Immersive, as part of the Raindance Film Festival. The third curated by Mária Rakušanová, the festival showed a variety of experiences across VR headsets and platforms, ranging from video games to films and experiences. In one case, Bose AR glasses were used to create a new kind of story via audio.
Like both years before, the festival is incredibly inspiring and fun, demonstrating the potential of immersive media to provoke emotions and incentivise actions.
These are our thoughts on some of the experiences we have seen. We wish we were able to see more, though we were incredibly impressed by what we have seen.
The Curious Tale of the Stolen Pets (World premiere)
Created by Fast Travel Games, The Curious Tale of the Stolen Pets is a departure from Budget Cuts and Budget Cuts 2 with no stabbing present. It is also a departure from the previous experience of members from the team, as they came from titles like Battlefield. Nice.
Instead, it is a cute game where the user plays the role of a child being guided through their memories, as a homely grandfather narrates their past life. The aim is to solve the mystery of the stolen pets, as they can be found anywhere on a floating rock in the sky. By using the controllers, the world can be rotated and interacted with, to find the cute critters in bushes or trees.
Cute and warm-hearted, the game felt fantastic to play. It was easy to feel lost navigating through the virtual world, solving puzzles and finding new hidden things to see. I was also stumped by one problem involving a teapot; I was slightly ashamed, but I chuckled regardless.
If you own a 6DoF headset (Oculus Quest, Oculus Rift S, PlayStation VR, HTC VIVE for example), The Curious Tale of the Stolen Pets is definitely worth a go.
Doctor Who: The Edge of Time
HTC invited us to try Doctor Who: The Edge of Time in a pop-up in East London, before heading to Raindance Immersive. The team warmly welcomed us to try a shortened demo of the experience, using the VIVE Cosmos.
As per usual, the Doctor got herself in a bit of an issue by being trapped somewhere. You play yourself, standing in a TARDIS and being guided by the Doctor to various locations to help free her from her entrapment and, hopefully, save the universe.
According to Marcus Moresby, the team worked closely with the BBC to work out what creatures can and cannot be used. He also watched hours upon hours of the show to pinpoint what makes up the heart of the show, to integrate it into the gameplay.
We had fun fiddling about with the TARDIS controls, wandering across a dark world, and solving puzzles. Like with the other game, we also got stuck on a simple problem, and we were slightly annoyed with ourselves afterwards. This isn’t the fault of the game; we were just very, very stupid.
If you are a fan, Doctor Who: The Edge of Time is a great experience to play.
Anonymous (World premiere)
Anonymous is a powerful 360 narrative film telling the personal recollection of a child of an alcoholic mother. The experience is twelve minutes long, though it was an intense twelve minutes.
Samantha Kingston, a talented creative, tells her story about growing up with her mother and all the things she did while staying at home. She explored small details like fumbling for the keys for slightly longer just so she can delay the time before coming into the house. She also told about how she knew all the hiding places of the alcohol, and how her mother filled them with water to see if she would continue the game further.
Five chairs encircle the person, who is directly being told the story as though Samantha is telling her mother in person. Each chair represents the five stages of grief. And every once in awhile, Samantha appears in another chair to highlight another point about her life.
Anonymous is an incredibly intense and powerful film from Raindance Immersive. The film also uses the medium in a meaningful and impactful way. It provides a compelling experience in a way that is more intense than cinema can be. Considering it was made with a crowdfunded budget of £2,000, it is an astonishing piece to watch.
Playing God (World premiere)
Playing God is an interactive sci-fi drama that presents the player with several difficult morality choices. Piloting a ship, players judge whether refugees can come onto a ship that already has stretched supplies.
On paper, the experience is an expansion on the philosophy of lifeboat ethics, only with spaceships. In practice, Ben Fredericks and Alex Rühl use visual tricks to put you in the role of the captain, with computer panels and beaming in holograms for additional insights. It’s a lot of fun while being through-provoking as well.
It is also a branching storyline, where difference choices bring about different conclusions. We wish we had more time to try out different endings, but it is great to see the absolute replay value of what can be done.
Playing God is an engaging and fun experience which is excellent to discuss afterwards, as different people would have different opinions on the choices that can be made. It’s well worth a play for anyone interested in sci-fi and philosophy. The potential sequel, based on genetically modifying children, is eagerly anticipated.
Afterlife (International premiere)
Afterlife shows the story of family members as they deal with the death of their recently deceased child. After a tragic accident, it follows each family member as they deal with the situation. From a mother who is convinced he is still alive, to a father who wants to leave the house that reminds him of the accident.
Like Playing God, Afterlife has multiple paths and endings, but instead of clicking on certain items, it is based on where the player focuses. For example, if the player watches the father, it continues the story from the father’s perspective. This then leads to a path which is different from the others, until they connect together again at specific points.
The idea of a story based on focus, rather than selecting options, is revolutionary. Instead of explicitly choosing options on a list after pondering for some time, the player’s focus on the story becomes the driver of choices. We had not seen anything like it before, and it is genius to see in action.
The film is fantastic, and we really look forward to watching it again to see what else the story brings.
Rise of Animals (World premiere)
This was the first Magic Leap One experience which Raindance Immersive has ever done, and it is a great one to start with. Rise of Animals is a truly unique experience that really brings to light the power of immersive content for engagement.
Imagine standing in a designed room with pieces of paper on the walls, a desk, and pot plants peeking out. Then, imagine selecting a particular creature and watching it walk, fly, or swim around a room. All the while, Sir David Attenborough talks about the beast at hand. From soaring overhead to swimming behind pillars, it provides a fantastic way to learn more about the natural world.
It makes us think about how it can be used in education as a powerful way to learn new concepts. Take biology. Reading about it can work or watching it on TV. Virtual reality can bring people through the human body. But the Magic Leap One has the potential to put creatures in a particular room in real-life and watch them soar past. That is a powerful way to learn something new.
Rise of Animals may be challenging to see as it uses a Magic Leap One in a designed location. But if you have the chance, be sure to check it out.
Drip Drop (UK premiere)
Drip Drop is a trippy experience which highlights the unheard voices of filmmakers. The user is situated in an underwater void, with the floating ghosts of people around them. By blinking, the apparitions form over time to then tell their story.
The theme of the experience is attention. The more care you give, the more that the voices are heard and given form. By looking away, the voice silences itself. In this way, the teme is that underrepresented voices can come to the surface to break the surface.
Drip Drop is a unique experience from Raindance Immersive that is well worth a go.
The Holy City (World premiere)
One of the most visually impressive experiences at Raindance Immersive, The Holy City is a narrative experienced based on Jerusalem.
There are several versions of the experience, but the shortened version has two parts. One is the VR-run setup where users navigate through stunning photogrammetric recreations of locations such as the Holy Sepulchre. The other is a series of puzzles solved on a tablet, which people can work together on.
What struck me was the impact and power of wandering through the locations. Jerusalem is on the bucket list, but seeing the site recreated in such detail was incredibly impactful. Its sheer size, beauty and religious significance were humbling to see.
The creator hopes to bridge barriers between faiths with the piece. We hope so as well.
Raindance Immersive and its trends
Raindance Immersive is one of our favourite events each year. The diversity of talent, experiences and original content is always fantastic to see, and it still leaves us thinking long afterwards.
During the summit, Mária Rakušanová pointed out several trends. One is the increase in collaborations with TV, such as Doctor Who: The Edge of Time, pointing out how its significant to see studios embracing the medium. Another is the use of audio, such as through Bose AR. But ultimately, the festival points towards a healthy and vibrant community of dedicated people who are breaking walls and making a real impact.
Once again the Raindance team led a fantastic event, and we look forward to next year.
Editor, Virtual Perceptions