#1167: Countering the Bystander Effect of Drug-Induced Sexual Assaults with Interactive Narrative “Missing 10 Hours VR”

Missing 10 Hours VR is an interactive immersive narrative designed to counter the bystander effect by recreating different social dynamics and peer pressure as your virtual friend attempts to spike a woman’s drink with a date rape drug GHB and then isolate her by the end of the night. Here’s a description of the piece:

In this interactive VR piece, the viewer is led on a night out by Greg, a big-headed guy with bad intentions. He spikes 22-year-old Mara’s drink with the drug GHB, and she gradually loses control of her actions. A walk through the night ends in a backstreet, where Greg maneuvers Mara into a dark corner. The choices the viewer makes during the evening—go along with Greg, watch passively or intervene—determine the outcome: a safe ending, or arrest and questioning at the police station.

Missing 10 Hours VR Synopsis

There are different choices in first two acts of the piece that merely flavor the experience, but the choices of consequence all happen within the last act of the experience and lead to two main branches with four possible endings. I had a chance to catch up with the director of this piece Fanni Fazakas in order to learn more about how this project got started, how the interactive narrative evolved over time, the associated film by Krisztina Meggyes as a quest for answers in her own GHB blackout experience, and their hopes to show this piece to audiences far and wide as a tool for education and advocacy.

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Music: Fatality

Rough Transcript

[00:00:05.412] Kent Bye: The Voices of VR Podcast. Hello, my name is Kent Bye, and welcome to the Voices of VR podcast. It's a podcast that looks at the structures and forms of immersive storytelling and the future of spatial computing. You can support the podcast at patreon.com slash Voices of VR. So continuing on my series of looking at different pieces at IFADocLab, today's interview is about a interactive narrative piece called Missing 10 Hours. And so this is a story that's based around this drug of GHB. It's a date rape drug that it's odorless and colorless It can dissolve pretty quickly in a drink. It causes blackouts. It says on their site that once they're blackout, the victim loses complete control over their body and all their actions, becoming completely defenseless. It's often used for sexual assaults, robbery, or human and organ trafficking. It's one of the most common causes of drug-related deaths. So yeah this piece is focusing around the theme of sexual assaults and it's more about trying to address the different aspects of the bystander effect and so you may see things that are happening and at what point are you going to intervene. So it's an interactive narrative where there's certain parts especially near the last third where your decisions kind of send you off into a variety of different branches and so there's Four different total endings to this piece. And so yeah, I just had a chance to talk to the director funny fazak ash Who's got a really compelling piece in the sense that it's got a very striking aesthetic. It's a very important topic And yeah, I had a chance to play through it three different times to see three of the four different endings And so yeah, just really interesting to see how it's playing with different aspects of interactivity to address these larger issues of the bystander effect So that's what we're coming on today's episode of the voices of VR podcast So this interview with funny happened on Tuesday, November 15th, 2022 at the IFA doc lab in Amsterdam, Netherlands. So with that, let's go ahead and dive right in.

[00:02:02.382] Fanni Fazakas: So my name is Fanny Pazakas, and I'm originally from Hungary. And I'm the co-founder of RoomXR, which is like a small animation studio, and we do a lot of game design as well about social topics. And I graduated from the Moholy Night University of Art and Design. I obtained my bachelor degree there. This is a university in Hungary. Then I got scholarship, and I was able to study at NYU, New York University, at the ITP program, which stands for Interactive Telecommunication Program. And basically I was geeking out on neuro headset driven performances before I got to New York. But there I met Todd Bryant and Kat Sullivan who actually also showed her work Dance Looper here at IDFA with Onyx. And there my focus turned towards immersive technologies basically and real-time motion capture performance.

[00:02:56.770] Kent Bye: Yeah, maybe you could give a bit more context as to your background and your journey into making all of these different spaces, like what other training you might have had or other influences you're bringing into the space.

[00:03:08.130] Fanni Fazakas: So previously I was working together with a neuroscientist team based in Portugal, and we did several audiovisual performances with other cross-disciplinary teams, which we showcase around Europe within a festival called MusicTapFest. And I was also an audiovisual designer myself, mostly focusing on spatial sound actually, and spatial sound driven by neurotechnology. So I tried to combine basically the latest tools which were available for me, and I consider myself really lucky in terms of what I had access to and what I have access to these days as well. But yeah, thanks to the scholarship and moving to New York, my life's totally turned around. And when I started my studies in New York, I started to learn the basics of Unreal Engine from the technical side. But we were also discovering how storytelling could be part of the VR experiences we create there. And that was exactly the moment when a friend of mine introduced me to Kristina. And Kristina was actually drugged by GHB 10 years ago. And this is why we started this project called Missing 10 Hours VR, which we have a world premiere with here at ITVA DocLab this year.

[00:04:24.891] Kent Bye: Yeah, and so you mentioned a little bit of how the story started, but maybe talk a bit about how it then started to continue to develop into what we're showing here, what was the next step after that initial catalyst.

[00:04:37.756] Fanni Fazakas: So first off, just a little personal story I was thinking to share. That's when I was at my early 20s. I was, you know, regularly going to parties and there was one night, a Friday night, when we decided not to go to parties and not to drink anything. So we ended up just going to have dinner with a friend of mine and we ordered two cabs. But these two cabs were late and we decided to grab just one beer in an unknown bar. and in the bar we received two long drinks from the bartender and you know we accepted those drinks cautiously but with the certainty that the official staff member wouldn't put anything into our drinks. But that was not the case and our taxis arrived, but as soon as we tried to exit the club, two big guys started to follow us and tried to convince us to stay. So that was pretty suspicious, but we managed to get into our cabs. But when I got into my cab and my friend in hers, it was basically a total blackout for both of us. And the next day I woke up in my parents' house, not knowing how I got there. And my mom tried to basically wake me up and Then I immediately called my friend and she went through a very similar experience, that she didn't remember how she made it home. But we were lucky enough that nothing serious happened, but we knew, since we had only that particular drink what we received, that it couldn't have been the alcohol. There was something off. And when I started my studies in New York, this is when I met Christina Story, that she was drugged by GHB as well, but she was not that lucky as we were. After this night, the next day she woke up at the police station and the police station told Cristina that she was found in an alley the next morning. She was missing some of her clothes and her body was full of bruises as well. And she's still investigating what happened to her that night. Just a short note that she is shooting her documentary film because this kind of feeling that she didn't know what happened really stopped her from processing this trauma. She was suffering traumatic amnesia, therefore she couldn't, you know, work with a certain thing in therapy. And the investigation is still going on and documentary is still in the making, but basically this inspired me to create a VR element to this project. This is a multimedia project altogether, Missing 10 Hours, and this is just a VR part of it. And we wanted to create a VR piece, which is not only an awareness-raising project, but also has preventative and educational training element to it. And, you know, maybe we can help those out trying to enjoy themselves in parties. So that's, in short, the mission with this piece.

[00:07:26.354] Kent Bye: Yeah, I really enjoyed the piece and thought it was really quite powerful the way that it was telling the story but also putting the viewer in the place of making different choices along the way. And some of the choices are just flavoring the experience where there's slight differences and it converges back. But there's the ending where there's a number of different possible endings that you can go through. maybe you could start with where did you begin in this construction of the structure of the story or this experience and did you know that you wanted to have multiple possibilities at the end and really encourage the viewer to have the sense that they were more engaged than just say watching a passive documentary about this topic but almost implicate people in a way by putting them in a relational context to a situation like this.

[00:08:11.603] Fanni Fazakas: I have so much to tell about this, but I will try to make it short. I don't know how much time.

[00:08:15.728] Kent Bye: We have the whole hour, so you can say as much as you want.

[00:08:18.171] Fanni Fazakas: Then you can cut a lot of things out. Perfect. So, this project started as a multiplayer experience, actually, when you could either represent the perpetrator, himself, or the survivor. And this prototype was exhibited with a colleague of mine, Hui Chen, at NYU, and actually 150 people tried the experience. And we tried to invite people to try our prototype. by placing an HTC Vive tracker on the bottom of a cocktail glass so you know obviously some people came for the free drink because what they got is that at a certain part of the experience when Greg is giving you a drink they actually got a physical drink, a physical cocktail which they could drink from. And while some came obviously for the free drink, others got concerned that after taking on the headset, maybe we put something into their drink. So this was definitely not the most appropriate setup. And also, when I finished my studies there, which was a master program, COVID came and it totally washed out the idea of doing this piece as a location-based multi-user experience. And we got into two Story Development Workshops, one here at ITVA, ITVA DocLab Academy, and another one at CPH DocLab, where Mark Atkin and Sandra Gaudenzi were our mentors, and they really helped us to figure out what would be the best setup for Dixie Sperience. And also, what would be the best way to distribute this piece? Because, of course, this is an artistic piece as well, but the main goal for us is to present it in universities. Therefore, the idea of making it more accessible, doing it single user on a standalone headset, which is right now the Quest 2, but we are planning to do other versions as well, seems a much better idea. And we went with that. And in the meantime, there was a trend showing that all the VR festivals turned virtual. therefore setting up an installation was out of the plan. And about the multi-endings, so the first prototype had 12 different endings, which I animated myself. I don't want to talk much about the quality, but it happened, it worked out. But when I started to work with Kristina more regularly, Kristina is again a friend of mine who was a survivor of such event, Then we kind of narrowed it down to what could have happened to her because, you know, we still don't know. There are just possibilities. And of course, she replayed these ideas on what happened in her head like a thousand times. So while we kind of made a list of what could be possible in such a night when you lose all the control over your body and you are in the hands of other people, let's call them bystanders, what can happen there and this is why we narrowed down the endings to four endings basically where the visitor can even become a perpetrator but also if the visitor acts during the experience and acts appropriately then it's able to save Mara basically. What is a really important thing I forgot to mention is that now it's a single user setup and you are neither the perpetrator, neither the survivor, because what we found is that people really didn't like the fact that they were pushed into predefined roles. They really wanted to represent themselves and make their choices. Therefore, we came up with this plan that they will represent the bystander, they will be surrounded by these friends, And there's like the main character in the story called Greg. He's the perpetrator in the moment. There's Amara, a young woman in her early 20s who is the survivor of this event.

[00:12:02.959] Kent Bye: Yeah. Yeah, so I had a chance to actually run through this experience three times because I wanted to see the different variations of the endings and I really enjoyed the progression up into that final moments where you have the choices that actually make a difference as to whether or not you're going to be, I guess, an accomplice to the perpetrator who's enabling this to happen or if you're going to intervene in some capacity. The first time I went through, I was able to negotiate out into saving Maro. And then I went through it again. And then I was like, well, I'm going to try something different where I'm going to actually go down a different branch. And I noticed that it flipped me into a completely different scene at some point where I'm, I guess, encouraging the behavior rather than not engaging in the behavior. And I kind of tried different variations along the way and saw that there was certain convergence points, certain decisions that you're making that don't have a narrative impact, sending me off on a different narrative branch. And the first time I'm going through it, I have no idea what the decisions I'm making. And I actually found it really helpful at the end where you have a recounting of the story based upon the different decisions you make along the way, you see these different branch points and whether or not you're actively or passively engaging each of these moments or if you took some of these different side things that you can do and then the branching points so that I understood when I played it the second time that I knew where those decisions were going to be so that I could explore those different possibilities. And so I'm not sure if this was meant to be played multiple times, Because those decisions that are of consequence don't happen until about three quarters into the experience. And so I ended up having to do the experience that ended up being like three full run-throughs rather than seeing the different variations. And so I guess if there'd be one potential feedback would be to go back to those different choice points and sort of explore around. Or if you imagine as people go through this experience, if you're okay with people just playing through it once and not being a completionist, like I like to see all the different stuff that you're doing as a creator, but as people are going through this experience, sometimes it's hard to know the different possibilities unless you actually take it, and I guess that's the function of putting these different branches in there to show that. So I'd love to hear the intended user experience of this, and if you want people to just see it once, if you encourage people to go through it again and play around and notice even more things.

[00:14:11.641] Fanni Fazakas: Yeah, so as you mentioned like under the two-thirds of the experience is more like warm-up decision points and we came up with very simple interactions. For example, you are in a bar and there are several glasses around you. You are able to break those glasses, you're able to drink from those glasses and you're able to actually cheer with other people around you with those glasses. So therefore, for example, this one prepares you for a later decision when Greg is actually offering you the bottle what Mara, the woman, was drinking from to try a little microdose of GHB. And, you know, if you accept the drink, you're actually going to experience a similar trip that Mara is going through, a really, really bad one. But you can also understand a little bit more his perspective better and what she's going through. But also, if you decide to break the glass when he asks you to break, to let's get rid of the evidence because it contained, right, the bottle contained the GHB and it could be an evidence, then you know by that time that you are able to break a glass. And I think for VR first-timers, this is really an important part that they previously understand, like, what are they capable to do in this kind of environment. And the use case, that was the other thing about the use case you asked. So how we imagine this is that this piece will be distributed in classes, in universities, in campuses. And what we would like is to have a discussion with these people in the end when they take off the VR headset and as a certain type of off-boarding ask them together kind of progress what we've been going through and I think this is a very interesting discussion point to make like oh where did you end up like this is what I always ask from these people who I talk at ISFA like which ending you landed on and they were like oh yeah actually I saved Mara and I wanted to save her but I couldn't because Greg took her home with the taxi because I was just not able to open the taxi door in time and I think this is really interesting that you don't have like one certain path but you can compare your experience to other people and this generates a discussion which then generates I think a new conversation about the topic and how severe GHB crimes are at the moment around the world.

[00:16:28.896] Kent Bye: Yeah, and I'd love to hear about that process of putting the timeline and all the different branching decisions because that, you know, that's something I haven't seen all the times when I go through an interactive piece and one of the challenging things as a critic watching some of these different pieces is that sometimes there's choices and you don't quite know what is a branching and what's not or things have a lot of different branching points and you walk out of it and you have no idea that there was other possibilities that you go through so it's nice to have a little looking underneath the hood to show the narrative structure of the piece at the end to give people a sense of the map and to allow them to recount the journey and as they're recounting the journey you're hearing Mara who's going through her own first person narrative of what she remembers of that night and you step through the timeline of the experience reflecting on where you end up and how you got there but maybe talk a bit about the last scene that you see to kind of reflect and recount the path that you took, but also the other potential possibilities that you could have taken at certain decision points.

[00:17:26.810] Fanni Fazakas: So as part of onboarding, you find yourself in this decision tree map, basically, as you mentioned. And you also hear Mara's perspective and Mara's voiceover on what she remembers, right? And there are four different voiceovers what we are using there. This is all based on many, many interviews we took with other similar drug-related trauma survivors with the help of our NGO partners. And basically, what we found important is that We got rid of the multi-user setup where you could see how is it to be a survivor, but with this kind of act in the very end when you hear her perspective, I really wanted to make the audience understand how is it to be on the other side, how traumatizing it can be that you don't remember what people did to you as well. Is it what you asked?

[00:18:21.192] Kent Bye: Yeah, just the design process of mapping and showing it visually so that people can reflect on the journey they took.

[00:18:27.715] Fanni Fazakas: So like how the visuals look like, basically. Okay. So in the very beginning, during onboarding, you find yourself in this empty space where you have floating cocktail glasses and bottles around you. And if you manage to touch them, they just float a little bit away. But in the very end, when it's the off-boarding part of the piece, you find yourself in the same exact space, but if you touch any of the glasses around you, they break immediately. And we wanted to use this metaphor on how our actions can be very traumatizing to other people and how these actions can change somebody's life. And in the meantime, while you are able to have this kind of tiny interaction with the classes around you, you are able to see this kind of map which shows you exactly the map, the decision points, and there are three different lines in between those decision points. There's one showing whether you were active in that particular point of the story, or you stayed passive, or you actually decided to do the opposite. And maybe a little bit about the story, that there are certain points when Greg really tries to persuade you to do a certain thing. But as part of onboarding, we tell the audience that even if they decide not to do a certain action, the story will go further. I found out that many, many users came to me with this comment that, oh, I really felt that I have to do something. But, you know, this is in real life called peer pressure. Like, there's a school guy telling you, oh, man, you should just, you should just destroy the ball. You should just make a selfie. Like, she's a little bit off, but just make a selfie with her. She won't remember. And, you know, also by going through the experience, the kind of actions, what Greggs asks you to do so, are more and more morally questionable, let's put it that way. So it starts by, oh, just let's drink, let's just break a glass. But by going through, you end up, for example, in the food truck scene. You get a bottle of mayo. and Greg asks you to destroy the surrounding of the food truck guy's patio, basically, where there are tables and chairs and posters of him and the menu. And, you know, this is something that seems very fun in virtual reality, right? Like, there are no real consequences, but in real life, And actually I'm happy to see that, let's say, so far 70% of the people, they don't do it. They just don't feel like this is ethical and they don't do it even in a virtual setting. I think this makes me very happy if we look at it as a social experiment.

[00:21:02.645] Kent Bye: Yeah, I definitely noticed a certain amount of even how when you're in a virtual simulation of having these virtual beings and you're interacting with them that there still can be a certain subtle layer of peer pressure for certain social conventions, you know, like the fist bump is a good example where the first time that I went through it I fist bumped both people and like the second time I went through I didn't fist bump them and the kind of reaction I get he pauses like, oh wow, you're in a grumpy mood or something like that and It kind of was like, wow, that felt bad of like denying the social gesture that is a simple thing to do, but you're breaking a relational dynamic with these virtual beings. And I felt the social pressure, even in the simulated environment in that way. So like you're saying that there's these. different moments of engaging and interacting. And as you progress, the moral implications of those interactions become more and more and more until you get up to the point of potentially becoming an accomplice to a sexual assault. And the first time I went through, I was able to save Mara. And the second time I went through, there's a moment when the police are asking me, which direction they're in. And I was like, well, I kind of want to see what happens to point the cop away from the right direction. There was this experience in my gut of like, this is not the morally right thing to do. And so being put in these situations in a simulation, I don't know if it's preparing people to understand the larger consequences of whether or not they're going to follow these peer pressure dynamics of their friends, or if they're going to step out and not do the thing that your friend is asking you to do and to look at the larger harm that's being done to go against supporting a larger rape culture in our society. So I feel like the VR is able to explore these things in a really interesting way. So my experience of that was that it's playing with these social dynamics in a way that you're able to recreate in a VR simulation that are more difficult to simulate within the context of any other communication media.

[00:22:50.662] Fanni Fazakas: Yeah, I think so. And you know, the other reason why we chose that VR would be the best platform for this is that we found many studies showing that virtual reality can actually result in measurable behavioral change. And this is what we like to also discover a little bit later, that from January on, we're going to have a research and development phase starting with two psychiatrists on board who have been working with drug-related trauma survivors. It's going to be a collaboration between Hungary and France and we would like to see how the VR intervention is more effective maybe compared to other visual-based preventative materials such as shorts, police films about why not use this or that drug and for what reason. So, as another add-on, we really would like to release these findings, our results, in the VR community, because what I found really challenging is to find funding for this piece. It's a non-profit social piece and it was nearly impossible to make it happen. But I think with this kind of data, maybe creators in the future will have a better chance to find support for their applications. I really hope so.

[00:24:07.261] Kent Bye: So how did you end up being able to pull that off then?

[00:24:12.863] Fanni Fazakas: So, of course, M-Value is a big name, even here in Europe. And we actually established a company back in Austria, where there was a new funding opportunity for immersive storytelling projects. But we had to establish a company there. That was one of the submission criteria. And after that, we partnered up with a company which doesn't exist anymore. But we had the funding in place and we started to work on the project. But after a while, our project partner disappeared with half of the production money. So it was a big financial challenge we had to face. You know, people were already in production. We couldn't pay the bills. But I have to say that our team of 15 is now a group of friends. And since everybody really believed in this project, that this project has to happen, everybody could relate to it. And 50% of our production team were women, which I'm really, really proud of, that we were able to find those people. Basically, these people found us just by talking about the project, even like at a dinner with someone, who knew someone, who knew someone, who knew someone. And then this kind of naturally grew into this kind of family and friends of creators who believed in it. So without the team, it wouldn't have been possible, I have to say. And I know that my country, Hungary, is a very tricky topic when it comes to the politics of Hungary. But in the very last moment, the Ministry of Human Resources helped us out and they funded the remaining part of the budget because there are some really amazing people at the Drug Prevention Department of the Ministry. and they helped us to realise the project, so therefore I can even say that this seems to be the first fully Hungarian production in terms of virtual reality, which we are really proud of.

[00:26:08.913] Kent Bye: I'd love to hear a bit more about the art style of this piece. The characters have a nice stylized look and feel, and the color palette, I have to say, it has a constrained color palette, but it is also very stylized that creates a certain mood and vibe throughout this piece. So I'd love to hear about that process of creating the look and feel of this piece.

[00:26:29.112] Fanni Fazakas: So from the very beginning, we wanted to appeal not only with the medium to our target audience, but also with the visual style. And I can say that definitely Battlescar, virtual, virtual reality influenced the style of what we ended up with. Our art director, Zara Maria Olsson, who is actually a Netherlands-based Swedish artist, helped me to create a visual mood board out of my ideas and my references. And then we worked together with an amazing team of 2D illustrators back in Hungary called Airplane Studios and Frugina Core. And together, basically it was, I think, the four of us who, after a little bit of trying to reinterpret the 2D images into 3D, we kind of ended up with this very naive abstract visual style and when it comes to the color palette we wanted the audience to feel this kind of toxicity what comes with the drug and for that using neon colors like purple, cyan-yellow, cyan-purple, a lot of dark colors as well and contrast images. We wanted to just strengthen this feeling like what is the topic of the piece basically.

[00:27:40.401] Kent Bye: And what has been some of the reaction of folks that have been seeing it here at Fodak Lab here at the world premiere?

[00:27:46.838] Fanni Fazakas: So overall, I got a lot of good comments on the animation quality. Also, they really like the flow. And I also got feedback that we found this kind of fine line in between narrative and interactive, which was definitely my aim as a storyteller to find that you can still follow the dialogues, but you are also kind of entertained in a way with the interactions. Or rather say, like, that you're occupied with the interactions around you. And I'm very glad about the feedback we received. And just a tiny bit, the animations were created by using motion capture technology and tons of data cleaning afterwards. So we used the X-Sense sensors to capture our animations. And all together, there are nine characters. And this is a 17-minute long piece. And what we really didn't know is how much work it needs to data clean those data. So it was very surprising. but back then I was teaching, like during production I was also teaching a course at the Moholy-Nagy University of Art and Design and I was able to even hire my former students who were junior animators and with their help we were able to pull off data cleaning and I got super great feedback on the animation and I'm really proud of this because back then we were more into like 2D animation and smaller projects when it comes to like human animations, yeah.

[00:29:09.219] Kent Bye: It's got a nice cinematic quality to it where it does have a certain level of moments where I feel like having a little moment of eye contact and as I go through that does have this fluidity to it that I think I agree that it has a really nice flow to the animation and that also gives you this sense of actually being embedded into these situations and contexts and it It has a way that I'm able to suspend disbeliefs of being in these virtually mediated environments and surrender myself to the larger story that's unfolding. So yeah, I thought that worked.

[00:29:39.497] Fanni Fazakas: Maybe one add-on that I would highly recommend smaller indie studios to go for, you know, rather like a cheaper motion capture suit like what we used at Xsense. And also what really helped is that we were using the latest Unreal Engine virtual production pipeline, meaning that I was able to see while directing the actors in the mocap suit the movement on the final character on the rough environment. I mean, rough environment, so it was the final environment, but without texturing. So, you know, that saved a lot of time on modifying the animations, because we knew exactly, like, what is the height of the bar table, what Greg has to lean on, for example. And this really helped the process and spared a lot of time and resources.

[00:30:27.205] Kent Bye: Awesome. So what's next for this project, then?

[00:30:30.503] Fanni Fazakas: So right now we are looking for basically distributors and we already have some established partnership with the Ministry of Education in Hungary, different NGOs, we work with NGOs who are dealing with helping drug-related trauma survivors such as Lara or Rain or Nana in Hungary, but also in France and the US and the UK. And what we would like to see is other people joining us, mostly from those countries which are more affected by the issues of GHB, and these happen to be the UK, where actually the most severe GHB crime was reported in 2020, when Reinhardt Sinaga, I don't know if you've heard of this, but it's insane, like Reinhardt Sinaga was convicted of carrying out 158 sex attacks on 48 different men. So what I wanted to say with this is really not just against women and you know it's not just for sexual assault but it's also used for robbery and recently organ and human trafficking. The second most affected country is definitely Germany and because of a legal loophole it's very easy and cheap to access. It's reported that 1,000 tons of GBL, which is basically GHB, because once it's digested by the human body, it turns to GHB, so basically it's the same exact thing, are imported into the UK per year. Like, just imagine that. You can buy it for a few pounds or a few euro cents.

[00:32:02.501] Kent Bye: Does it have other applications for what it's usually... Does it have, like, a legitimate use, or why is it being produced at all?

[00:32:08.806] Fanni Fazakas: It's used in the chemical industry and it's used in medical settings. Like anesthetic? For cleaning medical devices, basically. This is what it's used for originally. This is why it's still in some countries it's legal to buy, even for you online, anytime. So we would like to have partnerships within those countries and also in Sweden and Hungary and in the US. Since half of our team started out as NYU students, we have access to some private schools and universities back in the States as well. But the plan would be, other than distributing the current VR piece, our plan is to create a more accessible web version of this. which we would like to release together with the teaching material to any teachers basically and we would love to see that this kit is being used in schools and universities not just a VR but as I mentioned this is a multimedia project and we are planning to have like the documentary will be a part of it which gives another perspective on like what is GHB why is it still a problem It also follows Kristina while she's going through the investigation. So there's also a personal side to it. There's the VR and there would be the web-based version. But it's still multi-ending and it's just choice-based. But, you know, it's just much more accessible still. But I'm waiting for the year when there's going to be no complications in distributing VR-based schools and universities. When we're going to have the logistics ready. behind it. And I also got recommendations that we should maybe build a VR van, meaning we would sit in a van with the producer and Kristina and we would just go to universities by ourselves, like the Dream Team, have 20 headsets in the VR van and just do it by ourselves. And of course, we would love to do it, but we're still missing the financial help for that.

[00:34:08.072] Kent Bye: Yeah, and I'm curious because of the ways in which this topic can be traumatizing or triggering for people going through it, how you deal with content or trigger warnings in this context of, we're seeing this in the festival context where we're kind of thrown into the experience, but how do you see the onboarding process for inviting people into this experience and disclosing what this experience is even about just to make sure that this may not be too overwhelming for people who may have actually suffered from some of these experiences?

[00:34:36.260] Fanni Fazakas: So in the current version of the VR piece, when you finish it, there's a link to our website. And the first button you can click on our website is I Need Help. And when you click it, immediately scrolls down to the section where we listed all the NGOs and prevention programs you can reach through the direct links per country. And we would like to extend this list, of course. But when it comes to a physical exhibition, we always would like someone who is there and who is able to help if someone feels triggered by the experience. But as for the online version, it was a little bit more tricky. So therefore, we're going to place more text in the very beginning of the experience, saying actually a detailed trigger warning there, like what you can expect and what to do if you feel uncomfortable. And also in the end, we're going to try to have a direct link as well on the website where you can find more help. But it's also important to say that during the script writing phase, like when script writing started, even before that, we were in contact with psychiatrists. And we always asked them to revise, like anytime we achieved a milestone, let's say, script, first draft script, second draft script, final script, first prototype, second prototype, and so forth. We always involved them. and always requested their feedback to validate that this is a good way to go and we are not traumatizing. But this is not for trauma survivors healing. This is not for promoting that you should act as Greg in the film. Yeah, basically.

[00:36:08.975] Kent Bye: Have you had a chance to show this to any survivors who've experienced this in their lives? And what kind of reactions do you get from them after they see this virtual representation of that?

[00:36:19.774] Fanni Fazakas: So the first big moment after finishing production, which was not so long ago, one month ago exactly, we had to show it to Kristina. She was part of recreation, but not part of production. And she also recently became a mother, which I'm really happy about. and show it to her was really deep and really complex and really hard and I'm glad that you know basically her approval was the one I needed in the very end like I really wanted her to feel that this is an appropriate representation of what she went through and this is still ethical and just having her confirmation of that meant a lot. But we also showed it to others. We happened to bump into two other survivors during our latest test back in Hungary, where we tested 45 people from our target audience. And one woman and one man showed up after the experience and said, oh, by the way, I went through a similar trauma. But they were very thankful that someone is dealing with this topic. And I already kind of feel that the next project I'm going to work on might be sexual harassment against men, because while I was working with mostly women, when it comes to percentages, I was working mostly with women, but while I was working on this project, multiple male friends of mine approached me and shared with me their traumas and it was shocking to me like how often this happens to men as well and I feel that they feel a little bit abandoned when it comes to these kind of topics and I feel like I would love to be the one who kind of helps them tell their stories so this might be the next project but so far the feedback what we received is making me relaxed about distributing this piece further.

[00:38:24.707] Kent Bye: Yeah, I imagine that being able to see representation of your experience and enough of a representation of what they went through if it's not their exact experience, but to feel like there's a part of their story that's being told and shown and heard by other people, I imagine that that is some part of a healing process of being able to have that experience be validated in some way. I know at least from Skip Rizzo when I talked to him about PTSD and using VR, for people who've gone through traumatic experiences in war, one thing that he said to me was that there's a process of doing clinical therapy in these types of PTSD, using VR as a therapeutic to stimulate contextual memories for people. And he said that a big healing part was to be able to not only tell the stories, but to cathart and express that emotions that are around that trauma. So I don't know if there's a larger vision for, maybe not this piece in particular, but the vision of virtual reality to help to deal with some of the traumas and PTSD that people may be going through. And I don't know if that's come up in any discussions about this piece in particular, but just thinking about VR as a medium and its capacity to be able to help people work through their own traumas that they've been through.

[00:39:34.985] Fanni Fazakas: I think VR is a great medium, but I think what really generated these discussions was that we openly shared with each other in a safe environment these stories. And just like looking back at my own trauma, which, you know, I buried really deep in the unconscious mind, bursted back, and I really didn't want this memory to come back. but I found myself in this project, in the middle of it, and I just couldn't push it away. So I just think that in a larger context, maybe VR is the medium that is helpful to generate these discussions around this topic, but maybe it's not necessarily the tool. you know, the end kind of product, let's say, in the very end of this. But even just the creation, the brainstorming about the stories of other people helped me processing my own trauma in the last three years. This started three years ago. It was a very slow process, but I believe that I would be very grateful if I could work with other groups and kind of just be their mediator in between the technology and their own personal trauma somehow. You know, not to call myself a director, I just like to call ourselves as creators, like we are just trying to create something together and just maybe work on projects like similar to this one in the future. And I'm also moving to New Zealand actually very soon. I'm gonna be a teacher for the second time in my life at the Victoria University of Wellington and there I was requested to work with the effects of colonization for Maori culture and Maori tribes. So that's also another territory I'm planning to enter very soon, from January on.

[00:41:34.477] Kent Bye: Awesome. And finally, what do you think the ultimate potential of virtual reality and immersive storytelling might be, and what it might be able to enable?

[00:41:46.031] Fanni Fazakas: Good one. In short, I started to work with VR and also the neural technologies because I felt fear. And when I feel fear, I want to get to know where is it coming from? What can I do with that? And getting to know the potentials of even just, you know, non-invasive EEG headsets and also virtual reality. kind of made this anxiety dissolve in me and just I feel that I would love to just stay up to date on like what happens and what kind of new mediums will be out and I really would like to try. ways how I can create for good content for these new mediums. Because I'm, this is a little bit negative, but I'm very skeptical about the lawmaking procedures around these new technologies. I think lawmakers are a few years behind how they should be and this must be a very challenging job for them. But because of that, I think we're going to end up in some dark places. But we need people on the other side, so I want to be part of them and I want to work with them. I think something really great can come out of this if we keep on creating good content. No matter how difficult it is to find funding for non-profit social projects, we have to do it.

[00:43:07.490] Kent Bye: Awesome. Is there anything else that's left unsaid that you'd like to say to the broader immersive community?

[00:43:12.614] Fanni Fazakas: Yeah. Maybe I would say let's stay up to date with neural rights because our last place of privacy, our brain, is about to be gone. Very positive, right?

[00:43:25.625] Kent Bye: Rafael used the neuro rights. The right to mental privacy, the right to agency, the right to identity. All those neuro rights are all important as we move forward, for sure. Awesome. Well, I really enjoyed this piece of Missing 10 Hours VR. And I think it's a really powerful use of addressing these issues of what's happening and giving an interactive experience for people to feel immersed into these peer pressure situations and how to maybe have some other alternative options. And yeah, just really appreciate the innovations that you have in the storytelling, but also the topic that you're covering. So thanks for coming on the podcast to help unpack it all. So thank you.

[00:44:05.313] Fanni Fazakas: Thank you.

[00:44:06.831] Kent Bye: So that was Fani Fazakash. She's the co-founder of RoomVR, which created a piece called Missing 10 Hours. So I have a number of takeaways about this interview is that, first of all, well, this piece, I think it's really well crafted and constructed and trying to create these different social dynamics and peer pressure within this piece. And as you go along, increasing the amount of different ways that you're either complying with your friends and following his peer pressure or resisting him in various ways and getting different degrees of blowback along the way. And so, yeah, there's a number of different choices that you're making, but they're kind of then converging. And then there at the end, there's one key choice that you make that then branches off from there, those four different endings from those two main branches. So you can save Mara twice, and then you can be a complicit bystander the other two times. So after you finish this piece what they do is they have the timeline of the entire project so you can see the different choices that you make and what degree is it kind of flavoring the experience or are there different branches and then as you play it again then you can know if you want to make a specific different choice at a certain time then you can go down those different branches which is What I did but as you're watching the timeline play out again in this visual representation in there at the end You're hearing the woman Mara talk about this experience of blacking out and her coming to reckon with whatever brain she went down There's different outcomes and different stories but then she has this kind of missing 10 hours that she's trying to recount and share whatever things that she remembers and then walks you through the whole experience and So yeah, I thought that the interactions and the social dynamics that they were able to create really quite powerful and yeah, very stylized aesthetic that also I think works quite well in creating this deeper level of immersion and the motion capture and everything. And yeah, just technically very well pulled off. And just also a really powerful story to hear a little bit more of the context and the backstory of how this is, in some ways, trying to reckon with all the different potential possibilities of what could have happened in those 10 hours. The original version Fani was saying was like 12 different endings. It's simplified down to four. But also, the early iterations, where you're actually embodying the perpetrator and embodying the victim, which I think certainly could be triggering or traumatic. I think it works a lot better when you're a bystander watching some of these things, rather than put you into the direct experience of it. Fonny was saying that people felt uncomfortable as they were pushed into these experiences as the perpetrator in a way that if it was happening, they would have other agency if they weren't trying to push forward a very specific narrative, that there's not a lot of agency or choice. Having a bystander watch and make different actions along the way, I think, makes a little bit more sense for at least this story that they're trying to tell. Yeah, and that they're also just trying to consult with different psychologists and experts to make sure that the experience overall is ethically correct and that it can have a measurable impact. So yeah, if folks are interested in helping to see the story continue, then I think they're certainly looking for additional help and show it to different places and get funding to take it around to different places and just start showing it to people and perhaps doing some research and study to see what kind of effect may happen along a experience like this. And that there's also a corresponding 2D film documentary that's also being produced along in the same way as Christine, who is also still just in the process of trying to figure out and investigate her own experience of becoming a victim of sexual assault using this GHB as a drug. So, that's all I have for today, and I just wanted to thank you for listening to the Voices of VR podcast. And if you enjoy the podcast, then please do spread the word, tell your friends, and consider becoming a member of the Patreon. This is a less-than-supported podcast, and I do rely upon donations from people like yourself in order to continue to bring this coverage. So you could become a member and donate today at patreon.com slash voicesofvr. Thanks for listening.

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