The MetaMovie Presents: Alien Rescue is one of the most immersive experiences I’ve had in VR. It’s part Cinematic Adventure, part Immersive Theater, and part game that’s fusing the affordances of each of these different mediums in a unique way. There’s one interactor who is cast as the protagonist who meets up with three other immersive theater actors who are taking you on a fairly linear adventure to rescue some aliens. The main character gets to do some live-action role playing, customize their character’s identity and expertise, and make a number of different choices along the way to potentially go down some forks in the story. There’s also a number of other audience members there who are cast as iBots, which don’t have as much narrative agency as they can’t really speak, but they have more embodied & locomotion agency in terms of being able to explore around the environment as well as chose which characters and storylines to follow as the part splits up at different points.
I’ve had a chance to see MetaMovie twice now. I saw the first half at their initial premiere at the Venice Film Festival 2020, and then the full experience again as a judge for Raindance, where it won the best multi-player experience and got runner up for best game. It’s part story, part game, and part immersive theater adventure, and so I’m glad that it was able to win the multi-player award as the overall sense of social presence has been some of the deepest that I’ve had in any immersive VR storytelling or immersive theater experience that I’ve had so far. It’s quite a unique blend of agency and story, and it’s a mix that has taken a lot of time to develop through years of different experimentation on previous MetaMovie Project experiments.
I had a chance to talk with most of the cast and crew after I saw the experience at Venice in September 2020, where I got a lot of context and history about how the series of MetaMovie Project experiments have evolved. This interview includes director and creator Jason Moore, producer Avinash Changa, and actors Nicole Rigo, Kenneth Rougeau, and Marinda Botha. The fourth actor Craig Woodward was unfortunately not able to join us for this interview, but we’re able to explore both the past, present, and future of immersive storytelling in this wide-ranging conversation from the POV of the director, screenwriter, producer, and actors perspectives.
Moore tells me that they’re currently planning on doing weekly runs of The MetaMovie Project, and I HIGHLY recommend checking it out. I’ve been able to be the hero twice now, and it’s super compelling. But I also hear how satisfying it is to be an iBot as well to be able to help solve puzzles, track different characters, and have a bit more agency to explore the environmental and storylines that are the most compelling.
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