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My wife, Wonder Bright, has absolutely fallen in love with the VR experience Gnomes & Goblins. Her mindset and approach to the game was almost totally opposite from my own. While I focused trying to solve the scavenger hunt puzzles within their core explore, craft, and collect game mechanic, she immersed herself into skipping rocks, role playing with virtual characters, and becoming fully immersed reliving her childhood fantasy adventures in the woods of Eastern Washington. Needless to say, she was able to discover a lot more about the true nature of the game than I was in my initial 90-minute session, and it was her six-hour exalted exploration that inspired me to take another look at so many of the things that I had missed in my initial playthrough.

I mentioned in Wonder’s experience in my interview with the creators of Gnomes & Goblins and how she had a completely different mindset. This actually matched with Wevr’s playtesting where they saw a lot of newer VR users able to discover a lot of their experience if they had a more chill, meditative, and Animal Crossing mindset rather than a goal-oriented, checkbox checking, Call of Duty mindset.

Gnomes & Goblins is the first VR experience that my wife has really gotten excited about. It’s also her first video game experience that’s she really ever played. So it’s the first time she’s so fully inhabited, explored, and fell in love with any interactive game / immersive experience. She’s already logged over fifteen hours exploring, playing, and discovering all of the delightful creatures and stories embedded into this master class of worldbuilding.

We’ve been sharing a lot of conversations about Gnomes & Goblins over the past five days unpacking it all. Her feelings range the full spectrum of unabashed love and praise for the joy that this experience evokes in her, but she also has some specific feminist critiques in that she’s not able to fully project herself into a world that doesn’t have any female-identified bodies, and she’s not a huge fan of having to steal artifacts from the homes of Goblins without their explicit consent.

She found that the core game mechanic of collecting “artifacts” actually got in the way of the types of reciprocal relationships and experiences that she was yearning to cultivate. “Stealing” these objects and bringing them back to her tree house felt like a colonial narrative trope that ended up making this beautiful and sacred world a lot more like the type commodified world that she’s trying to escape. She just wanted to have more opportunities to be in deeper relationship and interact with these little virtual goblins rather than hunt for objects. Her desire for deeper connections with virtual beings point to the future of AI-driven character interactions, which are certainly on the technological road map for future sequels or future iterations of where these types of immersive experiences are headed.

As I was preparing to record the intro and outro for my interview with the Gnomes & Goblins creators from Wevr, I realized that there was a lot of Wonder’s perspectives and experiences that I wanted to include, but that I didn’t feel that I could properly digest and capture in my own words. So we decided to sit down on Wednesday morning to record a recap of the conversations that we’ve been having about this experience covering the full spectrum of why Gnomes & Goblins has so quickly become her first and most favorite VR experience of all time, and what changes she like to see to be able to more fully inhabit, cultivate reciprocal relationships, and immerse herself as a participant within the culture of the Goblins.

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Music: Fatality

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