#1187: “MLK: Now is the Time” Brilliantly Translates Dr. King’s Speech into Embodied Interactions & Spatial Metaphors

MLK: Now is the Time was originally released on the Meta Quest platform on January 12, 2023, and was selected to show at SXSW as a part of the 2023 XR Experience Spotlight. It’s master class of immersive storytelling and a brilliant use of the affordances of VR to create an interactive, embodied, and immersive experience of some of the lesser known and discussed parts of Dr. Martin Luther King’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech on August 28, 1963. This is the second part of a series on MLK with the first experience being The March, which was converted into a 360-degree experience that is also available on the Quest platform.

I had a chance to catch up with MLK: Now is the Time director Limbert Fabian, as well as the writer Andrina Wekontash Smith at SXSW to break down their experiential design process of creating this piece, which was personally my favorite story coming out all 30+ experiences this year. I wasn’t the only one who thought that as well as it won the SXSW XR Experience Spotlight Audience Award as well. So I highly, highly recommend checking out MLK: Now is the Time on the Quest, and then listen to us break it all down.

This is a listener-supported podcast through the Voices of VR Patreon.

Music: Fatality

Rough Transcript

[00:00:05.452] 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 future of spatial computing and the structures and forms of immersive storytelling. You can support the podcast at patreon.com slash Voices of VR. So, continuing on my coverage of 24 different interviews from South by Southwest, today's interview is with a piece called MLK, Now is the Time. So this is a piece that was produced by Time Studios and actually was released on January 12th, 2023, and is available in the MetaQuest store. So I highly, highly, highly recommend you go check it out before diving deep into this conversation. This is actually a second part of a larger series. The first part was called The March, and that was originally launched in 2020. The pandemic hit, and it was supposed to have a location-based experience, but they converted The March into a 360 experience. And you can also watch that available on the MetaQuest And there's also the MLK now is a time which takes the Martin Luther King's I have a dream speech and translates it into an embodied immersive experience So it's like taking different elements of that speech and creating an interactive access to the deeper themes that are being discussed there So it's a really really really powerful piece. I highly recommend folks. Check it out. I think it actually does a really great job of using the affordances of virtual reality to elaborate on some of these deeper themes and to tell this deeper story of MLK's speech. So I had a chance to talk to both the director and writer of this piece. So Lindbert Fabian directed it, and Adrina Wicontash-Smith was the writer and is a screenwriter who's coming in to do her first VR project. And both of them together and the whole team, they did quite an amazing job. Highly, highly recommend go checking it out and then listen to us break it all down in this conversation. So that's what we're covering on today's episode the voices of your podcast So this interview with Limbert and Andrina happened on Monday March 13th 2023. So with that let's go ahead and dive right in

[00:02:04.615] Limbert Fabian: Hi, my name is Limbert Fabian, and I'm a director in VR and I have a project called now is the time and I'm okay experience

[00:02:12.000] Andrina Wekontash Smith: My name is Andrina way Contag Smith and I am a writer who was the screenwriter for MLK now is the time and

[00:02:20.748] Kent Bye: And maybe you could each give a bit more context as to your background and your journey into VR.

[00:02:25.229] Limbert Fabian: Absolutely. My background is in animation direction. I've done every job in production, worked my way up to directing animation. I think animation allows for a lot of freedom and control of telling a story. VR became interesting for me when the idea of breaking the wall of the frame and doing something that allowed the audience to be cast in the story, not just an observer, but a participant in some meaningful way. But animation, it's about cultivating an audience and finding a style that appeals to a specific audience and dragging them in and pulling them in. VR just felt like, cool, let's actually put that audience in the middle of that story and see what happens. And I've been doing VR for about the last five years and directing animation for the last 15. So it's been a really fun journey. I'm fortunate to be able to do this for a living.

[00:03:12.407] Andrina Wekontash Smith: I am a storyteller, and I started out as a musical theatre major at a time that was before Hamilton, so they didn't really know what to do with me. I learned that if I wanted to share my story, I would have to be the one to do so. And I spent a lot of years doing solo projects and one-woman shows, where I found myself and had a beautiful audience, but it was a very ego-driven journey. I realized that the message that I wanted to convey needed a wider audience than the people who were just in the room, the audience that was in the room I was performing in. And so I really wanted to make a switch to television. It was a realm that would allow my voice to expand even further. And so I sold a show to ABC, and that's in development right now. And in the process of that, Cross Paths with Matt and Limbert, and as an activist and storyteller, had a really unique insight to this work. I am a black Native American who grew up poor on a reservation in the Hamptons, but went to rich private school my whole life. And the nuance of unpacking that story really gave me entryway and access to MLK's story in relation to the different people who would be encountering it. It was really important for me to utilize the different experiences of my life to make an experience that made everyone feel comfortable, but still maintain the authenticity of his message.

[00:04:47.405] Kent Bye: Awesome. Yeah, maybe you could give a bit more context for how MLK Now is the Time came about.

[00:04:52.226] Limbert Fabian: Absolutely. The project was an open invitation from Meta and Time specifically. There was a project called the March 360. It was an immersive experience in which you were placed in the day of in 63. You're watching Dr. King give a speech. We were about to watch him give a speech. And you were in the audience. And the camera sort of placed you there. And it was all rendered and made to look as close as possible to get the feeling of that world. As interesting as that was, what was interesting to me with the invitation was, okay, how do we take that material and find a way for an audience today to feel like they can take something from that experience, as opposed to it being an outside, oh, that's a historical moment in time. Here's a medium that allows us to go, okay, well, I'm here right now. How does that material? Is it, am I watching a documentary? Am I supposed to feel something? And so that began to open a lot of doors for me visually and dynamically to play with the audience. It's like, let's talk about the intimacy of the crowd and what it meant to travel to go see Dr. King speak, or what it meant to participate in any way in that audience. And the more I thought about that, it really became about the connection of the audience and the energy of the audience together. So pitch that approach to Meta and the Time Team and they were reacting. So if we have a passive experience and this becomes a very interactive, engaging one, I think that feels like it's a great package and kind of set off on that direction. One of the things that we needed to break apart really quickly was, OK, are we going to play the speech for you or Are we going to do something with the material in the speech? And I think that was probably the hardest part is because if you begin to play the audio by itself, it's like, OK, it's a passive experience. I'm meant to listen. And that's about it. And I was really interested in trying to find a way to use the words as a catalyst to have a conversation or set up a backdrop or a universe in which those words have more weight, but then the audience goes, oh, okay, my connection to these words is what's happening in this virtual moment right now, that felt really exciting. And again, that's what excites me as a VR filmmaker is that, hey, I hate the word VR filmmaker because you're not making any film, you're creating a world for an audience to participate in, but I love the idea of casting an audience and bringing them in and going, okay, I'm telling you this stuff, but But move around as you please, you know, observe and engage with the things I'm giving you the tools to engage with. And then let's see how you feel at the end of that. Like, how did you participate in that experience? And what Andrea was talking about is setting a space for an audience to step in as themselves. Never want to go, hey, step into the shoes of a person of color or, or you're black and I'm white, like whatever that may be, like, that's not, that's not as powerful as going, hey, I am my own person and I'm stepping into this experience with my own lived experience and relating from that point of view. That's what's exciting about the medium. And hopefully, I think we were doing that with this project.

[00:07:43.425] Kent Bye: Yeah, there was Alton Glass, the director of March 360, that, you know, it was a PC VR location based experience that was supposed to launch in 2020, and then the pandemic happened. And then it was a number of years that I think recently they released it as like a 360 version that I was able to see, I think I was able to watch them back to back.

[00:08:00.414] Limbert Fabian: You can link from it from our experience, right direct into that experience, which is one of the things that was new with with the headset as well. It's an app with an app travel and you're able to navigate that space. And also it's available online. The project is able to be viewed 360 via that way, which is, which is awesome. It's a great, to me, it begins to form a curriculum, if you will, like let's look at the historical context of the time and the people and the place, but then let's dive into the material, right? Let's dive into the demands and the needs and how those demands are you know, look like today. And as an educator, I would imagine it would be an awesome tool to go, huh, OK, let's dive in. Let's see what these words really mean and go from there.

[00:08:37.740] Kent Bye: Yeah, because there's a visual elements that are carrying between the two of them. In the march, you're kind of walking in the march, and then you see the speech from far away, and you progressively get closer, and then you're watching the speech. But they have all the audience as these little floating particle effects, which is a repetition in this piece. So maybe you could start about that as a visual bridge between the two, and then we'll

[00:08:58.530] Limbert Fabian: Okay, so I'm glad you pointed that out. As a visual, like it made a visual impression on me. When I watched that project, I thought that's where we were gonna go. We were gonna use the particles and be the audience and it transitioned into sort of a rendered version of an audience. Like they create avatars for people in that space. I became really enamored with the idea of particle and the idea of energy and I kept saying, imagine going to a concert and the energy and just the life that exists, everyone just kind of disappears and it almost feels like a light form that's just floating in the space. Like that's the love in the atmosphere for the person that's on stage, that love for the people together. Like, why are you here? Who's here? Like that energy to me was the particles, and I wanted to really exploit that as much as we could and find a way to go, this is who you are in the experience. You are this energy, and you're able to move it around. I wanted to give you proximity to those other particles and let you sort of play with them. And yes, that allows you to go, oh, I get it. I'm part of this energy in this experience. Now let's go from there, right? And hopefully it's a good visual bridge between the 360 project, but we get to dive a little further and go, Let's live in sort of the astral plane, if you will, of the energy particles and allow it to break the rules of reality a little bit and work from there.

[00:10:16.869] Kent Bye: Yeah, and as you're coming in on this project as a writer, maybe you could also just give a bit more context as your journey into VR and then how the process was for starting to tell the story of MLK The Time Is Now.

[00:10:28.763] Andrina Wekontash Smith: Yeah, certainly. This, again, was my first experience with VR, and I really think that Limbert had a very clear vision with how he wanted Martin Luther King's March on Washington a speech to be represented. I think Martin Luther King's, I had a dream section of the speech has become so hackneyed and distorted. We lose the true context of the rest of the speech. And so Lindbergh really intelligently thought, let's break this down into elements of voting, housing and policing and using his speech as a catalyst for showing how these problems are still so relevant today. And it was a really beautiful juxtaposition to have his words with modern situations and experiences. So we know that this is not some anachronistic speech of the civil rights era of long ago. These things are still relevant today. And what I love about VR is the ability for empathy that can be conveyed. because I can share my story and I can tell it to you, but you're going to be experiencing that second or third person, second or third hand. When you are in a first person experience, you're able to absorb it in a way that standard storytelling just can't express. And it was like that was one of the most important things for me, being able to, one, have an experience where a user felt immersed in the world, but making sure, two, it wasn't racial trauma porn, and three, people didn't leave the experience being like, okay, I'm a bad person or I'm a good person and really showing that kind of connective thread of humanity that allows us to have that visceral feeling when you're in the space. This is what excites me about VR, being able to have a connection of humanity that transcends the borders that either are erected for us or we erect ourselves.

[00:12:33.361] Limbert Fabian: I love that. I think it's spot on. I think creating a space in which the audience can develop a sense of self, be aware of themselves in that place, and also develop a memory. I love when people say, I just did the experience. I took the headset off and I'm kind of still in the space. I'm still thinking about the pieces that struck me the most. And that's wonderful. That's exactly what this is meant to do. It's meant to sort of elicit an emotional response, but also you take it with you. And if you take it with you, then maybe it motivates you to have that conversation or keep moving or learn more about the material and find a way to sort of engage with it. For us, it was really one of the things we talked about was like, this is not activism. We wanted to make sure that it's the beginning of activism. Let's kind of peel back one layer. But you as a user, if you wanted to engage with any of the material that struck a chord or go, my god, this country does need all of us to participate in some meaningful way, where do I do that? How do I do that? Where do I go? What's next? And I think that's a fantastic tool to have and a door to open for someone. But yeah, the lived experience, the memory of, huh, wow, I feel different after that. And that's exciting.

[00:13:42.312] Kent Bye: At the very beginning, before you start to dive into the three individual chapters and then there's a conclusion, there's the prologue, as it were. And what I found really emotionally evocative was the singing and the protest songs or liberation songs. Maybe you could elaborate on the role of music and those protest songs and liberation songs in this piece.

[00:14:02.768] Limbert Fabian: Yeah, I'll just say, again, I think a collected crowd is collective energy, right? And the chant immediately is, I'll let Andrea get into it. It's the idea of a chance like that's a very immediate physical thing and again, it's another way of saying we Right and the use of that to clue that into the audiences is I think was incredibly incredibly important the second you start to try to put other music and and layer in a score it begins to divorce itself from this idea of I'm here and or, yeah, I feel energized to participate. Scoring, it becomes like leaning on your old, you know, filmmaking tools of, I want you to feel this way right now versus, I think, the archival music, the moment. All the context of the choices made with the music really is about pushing you into this realm. Like, hey, you're here. It's OK. You can participate at whatever comfortable level you're at. Like, this is meant for you to take. And I'm glad that it's in there. And I don't think it's juxtaposed with anything, but I think it works on the level of energy and crowd and participation and community, if you will.

[00:15:15.637] Andrina Wekontash Smith: Chanting and song is such a part of processing trauma in the body, and especially during that era. And you hear it in that song. You hear that there is a mission behind that song. It is an anthem to rally you up, and it was just such a perfect song to introduce us to this, you know, to get us inspired and have us energized for the experience that we're going to see. And again, the thing that we really, really wanted to strive for with this is an activation. How do we get people literally up out of their seats and feel inspired? And so it's like the song selections, we're definitely lending themselves to that. Because it's like now is the time, the stakes are high, and we need to get as many people on board as possible. Black, white, red, yellow, everyone in between. This is all of our struggle. We are all here in this together, and this bifurcation is something that VR allows a bridge for, you know? It's no longer this place of like, okay, so this is you sequestered here, and this is you here. How can we use this as a tool for really connecting one another and our shared experience? And music is such a way of doing that without having you contextualize it. You feel it.

[00:16:35.704] Limbert Fabian: Feel it. and just put it right in front of you, and you can go from there. So it's great. It's great.

[00:16:41.309] Kent Bye: And there's also, with the hand tracking, there's the ability to be able to do gestures, like the black power symbol. Maybe you could elaborate on that, the historical context and how that was.

[00:16:52.959] Limbert Fabian: The ability to use your body. Back to Andruno's point about it's a form of therapy. We can look at that deliberately. Using your body to... OK, this is about the march. I'm like, OK, it's about the march, but it's not a march. You're not marching. Let's talk about what else you can do in this space. And divorcing your hand and having to control, hold anything allows you to go, OK, I think I'm supposed to be here. And then the nudge of the physicality and what it feels like to hold your fist up on its own right is couched with its own history and visual impact and people may see that and they, you know, is it, you know, am I part of a community? Am I contributing? Am I here with anger? Am I here with love? The fist does all of that, right? And the chance to do that, allow us to look with intent and move our bodies with intent based on the materials presented. You know, hearing Dr. King say a thing or you watch a vignette, you feel a specific thing, you hear Dr. King's words next, and if you're motivated to raise your fist in agreement or in yeah, I I feel like I should do something and Hell, yeah, I'm like that's guttural That's a human response and I thought that was really a wonderful thing that we could take advantage of with the headset and allow us to do that I mean that was that was a really big win for us to be able to pull that off and then then to go the movement itself now Allows us to maybe use its navigational tool. So it allowed me to think about okay. Well Could this be a potential locomotion device? Can we go? I raise my fist, or I make this gesture, or I grab a thing, I get the response from that, but, oh, it also motivates the next thing in the experience. And again, if you're at a rally and you are there and, you know, in support and you're sort of like, you want to elevate and you're with the crowd, you hope that these steps are going to lead to something and you know we virtually literally just raise your fist and now you go to the next thing you're participating by raising your fist and moving forward so it was hard but i'm glad we were able to pull it off it makes it more human the sense of presence is there because of that ability so yeah

[00:18:56.535] Andrina Wekontash Smith: I remember, now before VR, the limitation of my video gaming experience was like Super Nintendo, and so when Lindbert was talking about raising the fist, this was before I had really explored the headset, and I was like, I'm sorry, what? And then I saw it and it was this, again, this visceral feeling, this thing that gets to live in your body. And so much of trauma lives in our bodies. So much of the things that we have to overcome with systemic racism are biases that live in our bodies. So how can we very intentionally use our bodies in this experience to propel that kind of change. And that's also what I love about VR, this kind of three-dimensional chess that gets to happen with the storytelling, because it's not just the words, it's not just the world, it's this collective culmination of all of these very intentional elements coming to create this experience that is able to just fully immerse you by having all of those elements included.

[00:20:04.825] Limbert Fabian: We had a, there were moments in the experience where we wanted the audience to pick up signs. This was before we were like, you know, this should just be your fist. Like let's, let's someone else hold up a sign. Imagine being at a rally and seeing a sign or being, and using that as like, as the poster board to be able to go, Oh, am I supposed to do that? Just in case. But still it's like, I'm like, even the idea of holding up a sign, What's on the sign? And how do we appeal that? So we did a lot of editing and trying to get to what is the simplest thing the audience can do and participate in the experience to allow them to go, OK, yeah, I am part of this. I feel like I'm part of this and I'm OK with the decision to do that. Like it's not like you're forcing me to to be on any side, but I feel like I'm participating. I think that was in the editing of that, the pulling back of The complexity of what does the audience have to do to understand the material we're showing them, it was awesome to get to that point. It took time, but it was able to get, this is simply about what are your hands doing? Can they grab anything around you? Once they can, what does that mean? What happens if you raise your foot? All of that became really about the body. It's about you being there.

[00:21:10.827] Kent Bye: Yeah, I thought it was really effective, not only as a navigation tool, but as a way of getting me embedded and embodied into the piece of displaying some level of solidarity. But at the same time, I feel like that fist has all this baggage when it comes to the perception of what was happening at the Olympics and the controversy that was happening. And that was a historical moment that I'm looking into the past, but also with potentially elements of socialism or Marxism. It's a symbol that has lots of different meanings across different contexts. I think there was also another element of like, is this okay? Is this cultural appropriation? Am I being invited into this? And so there was an element of that where I haven't had that experience in that specific context of being an MLK to be able to be invited into that. But it felt like overall an invitation where this is what I was meant to do, but it was also having all these other, I guess rewiring my memories of what it has meant and the controversies around in the past.

[00:22:03.001] Limbert Fabian: Yeah, I mean, I can only imagine if there was a version of this where we were allowed to kneel or move your body in a way where you saw the rest of your body. I mean, what other things could we do to push you and go, it's okay to do this and just see what this feels like for a minute. And then from that feeling, you know, produce an opinion about the material, not a, I told you so, or do this and you'll understand. It's more of like, just participate. And I think that's great. It's an invitation, right? It's totally like, that's as simple as that. You can do this too. You can chant along. You can raise your fist as part of it as well. You know, the hands on the steering wheel, It's a car. There's a steering wheel in front of you. Everyone does this. But contextualizing and going, well, OK, I was told to keep my hands on the wheel. And if I don't, what happens? That opens an entire universe for a person that has never been in a situation where you, well, my hands are tied, I'm just going to put them down. But doing that can mean a million things in the situation you're in based on the color of your skin, the location you're in, who's outside the car, who's with you. Those micro moments, as simple as they are, they take on a whole new impact and approach. So again, I think inviting the audience to just get a little taste of that and question it and go, well, this is normal or not normal. Okay. What happens next? Like that's part of it. I think that's where, again, the physicality of that is such a great, like it's an amazing tool to have. And then just a nudge it enough. I think if we went too far and go, something terrible happens when you get your hands off that we don't have to do that. Let your imagination figure out what potentially happens or doesn't happen. I think that was the bounce we're trying to strike is like give you enough of an invitation to go, okay, do this and you're doing it. Great. Awesome. Now, how do you feel and move forward? Right? So.

[00:23:52.190] Andrina Wekontash Smith: And kind of piggybacking off of what you're saying, that moment when the hands are on the wheel is paired with the line that in the wrong eyes, your hands can be seen as a weapon. And there are people who have to have an awareness of how their hands navigate in spaces. And so I think it's wonderful that we have you thinking about contexts of hand usage and how that plays and how that narrates. We were not meant to have all the answers, but what we wanted to do was start having you think about questions. And you know, and the ways in which those questions manifest for people and what questions manifest are different for everyone based off of the personal experience that you're entering this experience with. And that, I think, is one of the other wonderful things about it, because you can still have a very personal experience to a reality that is very different from your own. But because of just, honestly, the love that we really put into this, and the amount of time I'm like, y'all, listen, I just can't embarrass MLK, okay? I said all that.

[00:25:01.335] Limbert Fabian: There's the weight of the material. There's the weight of the material. Like, oh my gosh, how do we not? How do we live up to the material? And yeah, it was tricky to navigate, but you're right. It's all we could have done was just like, well, let's write it from our internal point of view and just kind of go off from there and not go, I was at the speech or my relative, like it gets complicated very quickly. And all I can do was like, how did these words affect me when I first heard him? What are the moments in my life that resonate with the things that are being said and just kind of start from there. So this idea of kind of building it from the inside out was, a place for us to start and really navigate the experience. It was also very freeing, too. It allowed us to kind of have some rule-breaking and make it our own and find its own voice without having to go, oh, I have to make sure I'm checking off these, like, historical boxes, if you will, but rather use the material to kind of inform what's happening today.

[00:25:57.198] Kent Bye: Yeah, and when you speak about context, I feel like in the first chapter, well, each of the three chapters that you have, you have different degrees of having both embodiment and agency that are playing in to drive specific emotional reactions. And then for each of those chapters, I feel like the ways that I was moving my body and taking these actions, or lack of actions that were provided, were giving me a sense of emotion that I think was really tying into the deeper themes. And I thought it was really, really well done. In that first chapter, you have this sort of game, which I guess in some ways, obviously people should see the experience and have their own experience. It's available. Go see it. But we're going to be talking about some of the dimensions for people to have their own experience of it. But it's a game called Redlining where it's trying to, in some sense, tell this larger social, economic, political context of how decisions that were made unfold over time and how that ripple out into this larger cultural ecosystem. And to do it through the context of a game called Redlining where It's a game where if you are playing as a black character in this scene, you actually have very little agency. And that's the point of the game, which I felt was really effective of providing a game context, but actually taking away any ability to actually make any choices.

[00:27:07.462] Limbert Fabian: That game was... trying to figure out how do we take this information and make this like okay I gotta explain this thing and how do we explain this like it's all right it's a pdf like hundreds of pages of information and we have to find a way to like to make that the idea of being a pawn and feeling like I have no control the simple ask of like okay let's play a game I'll be this player you be that player like oh, I don't get to choose right the decision has been made and and that helplessness and the idea of like it's already moving without my input is The underlining driver behind that game and then we can have begin to have fun and go okay. This is it is a game but I'm playing it, and I'm the champ at it, and you, the user in the experience, wait a minute, you told me I could play. I'm trying to play, right? And that felt like a really fun thing. Also, and then the practicality of using VR to place you on, you know, in front of a table with a board frame, like, contextually, that makes sense. It's like, okay, I can use my, I can see my hands. What am I doing here that allows me to participate with the material? We had a lot of fun about who's the audience, why would they play this game, what are the, pawns mean and all the fun breaking of the rules like the board animates as you continue to play, the cards are telling you exactly what your move is without you doing a thing and that was a lot of fun to make because it was the most Embrace of that you have a game and gamifying the material was dangerous words to say it's like we're gonna make a game out of MLK speech Actually, we're gonna make a game about this experience and what it feels like potentially to have no options as a person of color today What does it mean? I you know, I can't buy a house. Why can't I get a mortgage this way? It's like well, let's talk about how where we started. So I

[00:28:51.879] Andrina Wekontash Smith: There's sometimes this pervasive question of why can't they get it together? Why can't black people in this country get it together? My family was able to work hard and get a mortgage and do this process. Why is it so hard? And so frequently, the conversations of this decade-long, generational-long system that has continually put black and brown individuals at the bottom of the system, it's hard to contextually convey. Because like you said, there's a whole lot of data. And it's like, that can be so overwhelming for someone to process. And when it's not your lived experience, and it's too much, you can check out. You're like, I don't want to listen and may be able to visually look like you're engaged, but we tap out. And there was something about making it a game that really had you questioning fair and unfair. Well, that's not fair. I know, right?

[00:29:56.612] Limbert Fabian: It's funny. It's funny you should say. Exactly. And then, you know, as a creative, you go, cool, this begins to become, this feels appealing. And what does it look like? What does it feel like? Is this fun to play? Like, there is that, right? To Juno's point, it's like, we can give you a ton of facts and feed you information. And you go, well, OK, it's got to be fun. This has got to be something that people remember. And it's got to be the easiest thing to go, oh, I played a game that helped me understand. why some people are marginalized. And the simplicity of that is wonderful. And that's what we try to do with these segments. Just try to figure out what's the easiest way in for a conversation. Be entertaining, be surprising, but also go, no, there's a lot of weight under all of these little tiny, fun things that feel like you're engaging with that you should probably uncover and get into. And that's what we left it at. It's like, this should be really fun to do. This should be real beautiful to look at. But at the same time, it's just, It's the tip of the iceberg, right?

[00:30:54.978] Kent Bye: And I thought that just the use of visual metaphors in that first scene as well was also really visually alluring to be able to elaborate on things like taxes and how it builds these different services, or looking at education, or looking at the medical impacts of factories and pollution and highways that go through, and just even creating a prison-like environment for the redlining. And so there was a lot of ways that using these metaphors that you were able to actually communicate a lot. So I'd love to hear a little bit about that process of coming up with those metaphors.

[00:31:24.469] Limbert Fabian: The colors on the board are all actual colors from a map. Those maps designed by the bank system to go borrow here, allow these areas to borrow, not this. And those are the exact... That was stunning and going, oh my gosh, is this... If you stand back and look at it, it's completely designed this way. Trying to find a layout that made that come to life. In that sequence, you can't pick it up, but if you look, the box opens up, the instructions inside the box actually has a scan of one of the original redlining maps. It's in there. I wanted to have you pick it up and hold it in your hand and look at it as a way to instruct the game.

[00:32:05.618] Kent Bye: Yeah, I tried to pick it up, but I couldn't. So I was like, oh, there's a map there. I want to look at it. This looks really interesting.

[00:32:09.520] Limbert Fabian: Yeah, but it is. And the use of the colors, it's all born out of that. It's like, hey, this is a real, real thing. The idea of breaking the board up as the space grows, one specific area gets diminished. But it looks like progress. I love the idea that the board gets cut up into parts, and actually the houses on the red side actually fall off. because progress, the idea of infrastructure comes in and changes things, and it's like, well, this is good for everybody. Well, actually, it's not good for everybody, right? Yes, it looks this way, and the choice of the colors of the cars moving on the highway that we introduced, and where they're getting off at, and all of these little tiny details are meant to poke a little bit and go, hmm, interesting. And for me, as a filmmaker, that's one of the things that I enjoy, is when you're crafting an image, what are the little things that make up the image that are all there by intention. They have to be there. It just can't go like, oh cool, it has to be a table. Where's that table from? What's the design of the chair? All that stuff matters because subconsciously the audience is going, huh, wait a minute, that is interesting. It all built in itself to tell the overall story about inequality, but it's those little micro choices of design that are meant to push the idea further.

[00:33:19.620] Andrina Wekontash Smith: Yeah, I think of all of the experiences, this one in particular could have spanned the entire length of the project because what we focused on was the red line district and the green line district, but you also see that there is a blue and yellow district present as well, which were also off-limits to black Americans. And so it's like if we were really able to see how the system of housing in America developed, then we would really dive into all of those different worlds. We would really dive into all of those different communities, but we didn't have that time. And so it was like the information that was crucial was showing simple facts that deteriorated quality of life. Like, I wanted it to be clean. I wanted to be understood. I did not want to be, you know, have this, like, garish idea of, oh, blah, and problematic things. Nope. I am just simply sticking to the facts. This is truth. This is documented reality. And from there, after we lay those facts out, what are the emotional impacts and realities of the people who have to live with those facts off of a page, but in their everyday lives?

[00:34:40.198] Limbert Fabian: Starting the experience with a Levittown piece of a documentary from Levittown, I've gotten some online commentary about like, oh, I'm watching a CRT television in VR. This is ridiculous. But that entire tableau, the way that section starts is, it's meant to be a dilapidated home that's been destroyed. There's a TV in a corner of a brick out. destroyed environment. If you look beyond the environment, you see that there's silhouettes of a neighborhood. It's about placing you in what people, you know, like these are the, it's chain link, it's broken. It's like, oh, it must be the ghetto. We say the ghetto while saying the word ghetto and having a person on TV from a real documentary calling out the decisions why a family moved to a specific neighborhood based on their perception of like, well, it's a mostly black neighborhood, so we knew what it was gonna be about, or it's a mostly white neighborhood, so we knew we were gonna be safe. That's all intentional, right? You know, the idea that the table, if we have the processing power of the headset, I want it to render an environment, like, I want that living room where that table was set in to be a 50s living room. It's someone watching this documentary in that time and going, like, this is the game you're playing. So, all the little tiny details are stuff that I think Subconsciously push that idea further is to to nudge you and going. Oh my god. This is horrible. Someone actually said this on Television someone felt like they're asked an important question. This is their responses and that's what it is It's at the end of the day. It's this isn't made up. This is reality, right? So it's fun to play with that

[00:36:08.879] Andrina Wekontash Smith: It, again, was able to take the elements of, for me, white supremacy outside of emotional responses and see how it was coded into law. Like, it was not by choice but by design that people were segregated, that people did not have members of communities, and that this idea of fear was planted early. and was really well attended. And so what we're now seeing is generations of people having endured this system. And I don't know how to fix it. But what I do know is that we need to be having honest conversations about how we got there from here, because it was not by happenstance.

[00:36:55.025] Limbert Fabian: It's like, oh, you didn't, I guess your family didn't bootstrap it enough and work hard. I'm like, well, all things fair, they're not. So just this conversation, it becomes a wealth of information to convey, and there's so much behind the material. I think we tried and did our best to just find the simplest set up for the conversation and then allow for the discourse to happen outside the headset. I always imagined that this was the second you got the headset off that it was meant to engage this sort of discourse, this conversation. What did you mean by that? And why that? And what this? And if that's happening, then I think it's a success. We're actually doing it, which is wonderful. So, yeah.

[00:37:31.740] Kent Bye: Yeah, it makes me think of Bryan Stevenson's documentary called True Justice, where he goes through the historical, you know, going back into the very early times of how these laws were first defined and then propagated over time. And I think what you were able to do in this piece was take a microcosm of situating it into a timescale of maybe over a couple of generations, maybe not like 10 generations, but into this contemporary time of how some of these decisions have played out over a long period of time. And I feel like that game metaphor was able to convey this long a history of systemic racism and injustice to be able to create these rules of the game that your experience of it is, hey, this doesn't feel fair. And I think that's a really visceral experience of that. And then the second chapter of, we talked about it briefly, where you're having your hands on the steering wheel. And I did this experience twice. And the first time I did it, I don't know if I triggered it more. I felt like I was having my hands on the steering wheel for a really, really long time. Do you have to move your hands to trigger that or is it just happen naturally because I felt like there's a long pause where I'm like waiting and it's like this anticipation and Kind of like it feels like it's building up into this like I'm being watched and so yeah The feeling of being watched is intentional your hands doesn't trigger anything It's gonna happen right the idea that doing that but the sensation that you you're questioning.

[00:38:48.130] Limbert Fabian: That's all I mean That's all you need it out of that moment. It's like OK, what's going to happen? Because that's what it feels like. That's what it feels like. I don't know what's going to happen. What's supposed to happen? And the actual physicality, you holding the hands and you're being there for a while, doesn't trigger the move. What triggers the next move is you're going to raise your fist in the scene. But yeah, I think that the uncomfortable, am I doing this right or wrong, was the whole activation. That's the premise. And then layering in the things you wanted to say in that moment, now that we have you sort of captive, if you will. That's part of it. The officer on the right-hand side, again, if you haven't done the experience, there's an experience where you sit in the car, but that always surprises people. Oh my God, I had no idea that person back, yeah, they do, this is what happens. The car gets looked at from both sides and there's an officer there and that is, I thought was wonderful because it's like I'm supposed to be doing this and if I don't for a split second, I think the timing of the way we pulled it off is if you let go, That officer, right around that time when you feel it's uncomfortable, that officer pops up. And it's like, oh shit, did I trigger that? Did I do that? And that is the feeling that you're supposed to convey for that. So it's timed that way. It's not triggered by you not doing anything. But you're there for the amount of time we think you're going to be there. The second your hand sort of moves, you realize that there's someone there. And you get the sensation of that.

[00:40:07.685] Andrina Wekontash Smith: I remember in the capture and even when I was very familiar with the experience still being so shocked and there was a time where it wasn't even a police officer it was a Jedi and I was still like Yeah. And there was a, um, so this section, again, please watch the experience. It's delightful. But there is a section in between the car experience where you hear a mother's voice. And that is a section that I did not write, but I conducted an interview with an incredible couple. And they gave so much wisdom. And one of the things that did not get to make it into the piece, just because of the direction that we were going, was this father who was talking about the first time he got pulled over with his son next to him. His son, who has seen him as a superhero his whole life, and then have to see the way the father interacted with the police officer so that he knew that he would get home safe. And he said the look in his son's eyes when he saw himself lessen his humanity to try and grovel to this police officer was crushing. was absolutely crushing. And it's like, in that time frame of holding on in that fear, when that is an actual thing that happens to you, when you are not sure which way it's going to go, there are so many things that your mind can race with. And yet it's a requirement that you remain completely calm. Because if you allow any emotional experience to enter it, that could be your life. And so we really wanted that space of time to, again, give you that opportunity to generate feelings. Whatever those feelings were, we did not want to tell you, but we did want to allow for that space to have something arise.

[00:42:09.895] Limbert Fabian: In the R&D and building of that sequence, we had a moment where we entertained having the audio, your microphone, you speaking into the experience. Motivate the movement progressing the scene further. So the officer would ask you a question and then you would respond and If you didn't respond he would ask you again and you were kind of like stuck in this loop and the fear was that If people don't want to respond Then you might break the experience a little bit and not you kind of be stuck in this loop and then what kind of force you might feel a little inauthentic so we abandoned that but I think that again it was like trying to put you in a situation am I okay to respond or Can I respond? I'm going to respond. Like, that was an interesting place to be. We ended up just keeping your hands on the wheel and moving forward for you for interest of time and brevity moving things forward. But again, you could break any of these tableaus into their own sort of standalone experience. And there's so much more to explore and play with. and engage with. Like, for example, I think the audio has cars outside. It sounds like you're out at night, and there's a dog barking. Like, all of the things that sort of heighten the experience. But I wanted to see the cars driving by. And why can't I drive this thing in VR? Well, you're not supposed to drive. You're supposed to be standing still, and you're being observed. Like, a bunch of that stuff. The lights in the back of the car, if you look behind you, they're supposed to be blaring your eyes. And all of those little choices that hopefully people begin to pull at. But yeah, I think all three experiences of the vignettes can be blown out into their own sort of standalone moments, if you will.

[00:43:37.333] Kent Bye: Yeah, I was going to ask about whether that was written, or it felt like it was a documentary interview. It felt like it was from parents. But to have the parental direction, and then you are in the car, and you're almost like hearing those voices as if they were your parents. Like, here are the instructions for how to survive the situation. And then to bookend that particular section with the voices, and having a little radio dial, and with the transcript of the words. I felt like that was a really powerful way of giving that broader, I mean, the experience within itself is powerful, but to have the broader context of like, you're, yeah.

[00:44:11.701] Limbert Fabian: No, I'm sorry, I didn't mean to cut you off, but you're right. It's like all those little things are meant to support, and they're kind of happening in concert, right? Like, we're showing you the words, you're hearing the person speak, the environment drowns out, you hear a heartbeat, you hear the parents, like all of these things are, there is a sequence to them, but I think it's all happening in concert, and it's all, hopefully, like, identify the headspace that you, the audience, might be feeling, but also consider that this happens to a lot of people, and imagine their headspace. What would they do? The same questions you're asking, well, can I go look for my license? Is that OK? Just think about the headspace and the ability to go, this is what some people go through. You're doing it. Don't forget, you're not in the shoes. You're doing it. I'm kind of placing you here, but allows you to think about, holy shit, I never thought that was a thing, because I never experienced it. So that was, again, it's that balance of how much am I allowing the audience to be themselves and bring their experience to that moment and go from there. I know that moment is triggering for a lot of people that have been in a situation and have had things go a very specific way. And then those that have never been in a situation, it's okay for them to do that. To your point of an invitation, yeah, it's okay. This happens. Let's talk about what happens here.

[00:45:30.823] Andrina Wekontash Smith: Leaning into that, I think it was important not to make this an experience of just, this is what it's like in a car for a person of color. I really wanted to take care of users who might have experienced that and really just wanted to be intentional with that. And one of the cool things about the parents is that it doesn't become about the individual experiencing it but also this kind of emotionally supportive journey that parents have to go through and conversations that parents have to have and like what is I just want you to come home. I just want you to come home.

[00:46:17.836] Limbert Fabian: And again, that's an invitation. There is a mom, there is a dad. Forget about color for a minute. You have a mother, you have a father. You have that experience. Everyone can start there. This is a human being that desires their loved one to get out of the situation. That just felt like a level playing field to have that conversation from.

[00:46:38.491] Andrina Wekontash Smith: It's really just, again, it's about leading with the empathy. I'm not here to beat anyone over the head with this. I'm not here, we're not here to say, okay, you were right, you were wrong, this is this, this or that. We just wanted to share a human experience and have human to human interact. with this world so that maybe they can develop a little bit more kindness and understanding for perspectives that they might have not been exposed to before this.

[00:47:11.001] Kent Bye: The last interactive section I thought was also really simple on the surface but also quite powerful because it's talking about voting and who has access to voting and all the ways that there's been the powers that be trying to pull back different voter rights and to make it more difficult and put various different blocks for people of color to vote in the United States. just to have a ballot hanging out there and to grab at it. I have just the experience of what it means to be an American and to vote. I felt really frustrated of, like, you're taking away my right to vote. And it was like it again and again. It was frustrating, but I kept doing it because I wanted to stay in that space, but also to see the world break apart in the background. simple embodied interaction of trying to grab something, but it won't let you, but also just see how the impact of that over many generations of how the leadership that's voted in are not representing the interests of a person that I'm representing in this piece.

[00:48:06.851] Limbert Fabian: Yeah. Again, that was another situation in which I go, we're like, all right, let's gamify this really, really crazy important topic. But what's the simple feeling that people have? Like, I want to do the thing that I've been promised as a citizen, and I'm having a really hard time doing it. Why? Well, this is kind of making it almost impossible to do the thing that we're all asked to do. And the simple ask is like, hey, we should be able to, everyone should be able to do this. And it shouldn't be this hard. But it's like, again, it's like the vote is being manipulated. The way it's animated in the experience, it feels like there's a hand holding it and moving it around. That's kind of like that invisible force of like, well, someone's at work behind all of this, and this freaking sucks, and give it to me. I'm allowed to do this, and I can't. And you're telling me, well, you can't because of this, you can't because of this. All the voices that are in the background, those are all voices of people from hopefully across the country that are encountering the simple act of like, I want to go vote today, and here's why I couldn't. That experience was the bridge into going, hey, this isn't just about people of color in America or Black Americans or Latinos, whatever that may be, it's all of us that are dealing with this issue of, hey, this right that we have is apparently in contention. It's being used as a tool to orchestrate a different sort of country, if you will. I don't know. But that idea was hopefully the bridge to all Americans, which again, Dr. King is saying, my brothers and sisters, like, this is all of us at this point, right? And I think that was the best bridge to the ending, which is the hopeful part of the experience, yeah, so.

[00:49:44.782] Andrina Wekontash Smith: And it was really important that we weren't telling people how to vote or what to vote. It was just the fact that when citizens in this country are denied that constitutional right, our country starts eroding. And we made that tangible in the experience which you should definitely go check out, so that we can kind of see this deterioration of our society when we are unable to participate in that right which we are all afforded as American citizens, you know?

[00:50:21.088] Kent Bye: Yeah, I think the overall experience that I had in this piece was that, you know, there's certain clips of the Martin Luther King speech of, like, I Have a Dream that have been played again and again, which you mentioned you wanted to try to find other access points into his speech, and the experience that I had was that there were so many different dimensions of these excerpts. I was like, wow, this could be played today and just very contemporary. This is an issue that he had identified. He had seen what was happening. He named it. He called it out. But yet, still, it's happening. And there has been some change, but not the degree of change that is really living into his words that he's speaking. And so that's what I find so striking is that you're able to pull out different dimensions of that and really put it into this contemporary context.

[00:51:02.890] Limbert Fabian: The speech for me doing the research getting into the material was the first half of it before the dream stuff is America hey, we talked about doing better by us. First of all, let's talk about the fact of how you're treating us black Americans We're Americans. First of all things were said and things were promised. I found that a very interesting that sort of finger waving part of the speech as a wonderful, like imagine that playing at a rally today. Another person got shot. at a traffic stop, or this person couldn't vote for these reasons. Those words, they completely stand up against the world we live in. I was like, okay, that's an interesting space. We don't live in a post-racist society. We're actually still grappling and dealing with a lot of issues. Yes, there's progress. There's, I think, a level of understanding and participation as a country. But yeah, those words are meant to inspire and move us forward. They didn't fix the world. They just said, hey, we need to do better. It's been promised to us that it should be better. And it's still, we're still, still dying. You know, we're still dealing with, I got to tell my kid to act right because he needs to come home. Like that is, That's today, right? So hopefully that inspired people that go, oh, yeah, there's a lot of room for us to build upon here and work from. And I love that that script is his speech. Like, that's what he's saying. And we were able to use that and say it, so.

[00:52:35.403] Andrina Wekontash Smith: It's called the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, and it was something that transcended just black and white narratives at that time. He was trying to get people of all different socioeconomic classes together. And I think that that is a part of the message that has been really lost. And I just want to do a call back back to the housing. It's like what happened to the cultural experience of Italians, of Greeks, of Irish who came over and were rewarded for abandoning that cultural connection in favor of this notion of whiteness that can continue this system of oppression. And so King was really attempting to decimate that. And so it's because of that, that that part of the speech has been buried. Let's talk about the dream where all the little children are playing together.

[00:53:31.913] Limbert Fabian: That's the world we want to live in. Yeah, we do. Everybody wants to live in that world. But let's talk about how we get there.

[00:53:37.335] Andrina Wekontash Smith: Yeah, the social inequalities that we experience when we leave the conversation to one of black and white, then we're missing out all of the nuance and all of the steps that had us get to this point today. And there was a lot of erasure that happened for it to get here, because whiteness is not just an assault on people of color. Honestly, it's an assault on white people as well, because they're being limited from the exposure of the human experience they're allowed to encounter. because there's this huge widening gap that's just increasing where we're unable to see the connection and the relevancy of his speech and it pertaining to so many more people than the melanated members of society.

[00:54:21.678] Limbert Fabian: It's a country, right? And I think that's the beauty of it is we are together and this affects all of us. And these words are meant for everyone here, which I love, which is beautiful about the archival footage. And you watch the audience, it's sinking in on like a human level. And that's what makes that moment beautiful. If we could emulate that in some way with this experience, like let it sink in on a human level. I am hearing him say these words, and oh my gosh, I saw the news yesterday, but I'm hearing these words right now, and I'm in the middle of this experience. It's sinking in on a human level, and I think hopefully we're doing that. I think that's what we're trying to get at. It's not like put the user outside and let you observe. Let's put you inside and let you feel, right, and see where that takes you, so yeah.

[00:55:07.335] Kent Bye: Yeah, and that last section where you have, like, video clips, was that a piece that you had also edited to put in there? Or was that something that you were pulling from? Because you have the overlay of some of the speech, but also contemporary images of what's happening.

[00:55:19.600] Limbert Fabian: We cut that together to deliberately go, look at gatherings today and look at gatherings then. That happened, this is happening. Again, the whole idea of this isn't just history, this is now. This is happening today. And that was important. So we kind of amped that up a little bit. A little heavy handed with it, but I think it was important to do. It's to go those words against that backdrop that you see. You've seen these images over and over on TV. So that's exactly the same approach and that sentiment that people gathered with. And what he wanted was for us to engage in that dialogue non-violently, but the idea is still there. Yeah, people are pissed off and they're pissed off today. And hey, we were promised that we're not going to be treated this way. Let's be treated as the citizen than I am. And I think that that was relevant. So, yeah, that little editorial piece is meant to sort of to bring the idea home that this is happening today. So.

[00:56:15.048] Andrina Wekontash Smith: For me, the section in that piece that really resonated the most was the narrator's last section because sometimes it's possible to encounter all of this and feel hopeless and feel like, what can I do? How can I help? And really what we wanted with that speech was like, We just want you to show up. Show up in your humanity, show up in the truth, show up with open eyes. How can this experience, again, I would love for this to inspire people towards activism and political whatever, have grandiose feelings on it. But if it just causes you to show up to spaces with a different awareness, then we did our job. And that was really what we wanted that last narrator role to be, to make you feel empowered, not disempowered. That's not what we're here to do, because the legacy of MLK and that speech was one of hope. And that is the note that we wanted to leave on. We're here, we're doing this because we still believe in the hope of this country. We still believe in the power of its citizens. And we've been told a message that says that that's not possible, but it certainly is. And I'm going to do my damnedest to make sure that that message reverberates as loudly and as inclusively as possible.

[00:57:52.958] Limbert Fabian: I'm glad you pointed out that ending That was awesome, Angelina, by the way. I think the narrator in the experience is an activist. It's a person that has been engaged in this fight, if you will, very actively, but she's trying to onboard a person who maybe has not been engaged, or doesn't know, or is unaware, or I had no idea. And we're trying to find a very human way to do that, and this idea that the narrator isn't just some disembodied voice, but she actually is someone that's actively engaged and goes, like, if you find any interest in this, do like me, follow me, and here's some steps that we can go further into, but I think that was a nice way to sort of wrap up the whole thing. Yes, the footage and all the material at the end, but the person, that character that's speaking to you is someone that's engaged in this dialogue, and we wanted to make sure that, you know, she inspired that in the audience.

[00:58:45.782] Kent Bye: Yeah. Yeah, just a really powerful, moving piece. And so glad I got a chance to see it here and to talk to you about it. And just to wrap up, I'm curious what each of you think is the ultimate potential of virtual reality and immersive storytelling, and what it might be able to enable.

[00:59:01.793] Limbert Fabian: Gosh. VR. There is incredible potential. I think we are just figuring out what are the best practices, if you will, of the medium. The more we can say it's not, I'm watching, it's more I'm being. The more we put the audience in a space in which they can be themselves and then pull something out of that experience is incredibly powerful. I'm super excited about where that can go. the fidelity and the look of things and that's all changing at 100 miles an hour and it's going to be amazing. But I'm really intrigued with the world building that we can create. I think that there's room to do something that only could exist in that medium. And that's pretty far. I'm just watching some of the things that are here in the festival this year. It's just this idea of giving you sensory experiences that are trying to bring your body into it is, I think, the potential for the medium. And I'm excited about that. And then to go, OK, cool. That's awesome. How do you tell a story with those tools? How do you go, OK, I want to say something with those tools. It's a wild, wild west out there for that. As a creator, that's a very exciting place to be. Inventing those tools and figuring out what that's going to be.

[01:00:17.119] Andrina Wekontash Smith: It was incredibly humbling to have this be my first VR experience because, in essence, this experience is exactly what I want to do in VR. How are we able to build a bridge through these segregated communities, these segregated worlds, whatever segregation that may be? We are living in a world where empathy for one another is becoming harder and harder to access. but it is still a message that I firmly believe in. And this is such a visceral tool for that to happen. And I want to continue to build those opportunities where people can come and share space and experience, whether that is in real space or in the virtual reality realm. How can we allow ourselves to find this community and connection and continue this message of us being in this together? We are all in this together. And I just think that experiences like MLK's Now is the Time really continues that legacy of unity, you know, and it just has an ability for us to soften outside of the everyday hardships of our personal realities and experience and encounter someone's truth and see our own personal privileges, whatever they may be, because we all have privileges from whatever walk of life we come from. And this is a tool that can allow us to see those things and allow us to confront hard conversations in a safe manner. And that's important. Having the feeling of safety when handling uncomfortable situations is a place that gives us the opportunity for growth. Because it might not be comfortable for someone to come to a rally or an experience, but this is a really nice entryway. And I want to continue to doing that so that, like you said, it can start to live in our bodies and It's very hard to have conversations directly from body to body, and this is just one of the many tools and assets that virtual reality can offer.

[01:02:29.861] Kent Bye: Awesome. Is there anything else that's left unsaid that you'd like to say to the broader immersive community?

[01:02:36.976] Limbert Fabian: These are awesome questions, by the way. It's so great to actually talk about the project and the intention behind it, and I'm glad it's being received the way it is. I think the response has been wonderful, humbling as well. I think that the audience walking away with an emotional reaction is really, really wonderful. And then responding to the things that we deliberately put in there to hopefully elicit that sort of response, and then getting it, that contract is working. It's wonderful to see that. It's like, we thought this would work in that way, and people's reaction to that and committing to it has been awesome. I couldn't ask for a better reception, so it's great.

[01:03:16.126] Andrina Wekontash Smith: Yeah, there is a meditation app that I like to use sometimes. And in the app, you have an experience where you are navigating through these kinds of like balls or bricks that come at you and you're meant to find coins in between these bricks. You navigate around through these objects coming at you and finding the coins allows you to find quiet in the chaos And I think our current world can be so sensationalized, can be so overwrought with these narratives. And I think VR allows you to find some of those quiet moments in the chaos. It has the ability for huge scale experiences, but also really small nuanced moments. And it's exactly in those intimate moments that I think we can find real growth. And I'm just so excited for what VR is going to do with that from now to the next 10 years. And I'm just so, I feel so privileged to be a part of this ride.

[01:04:26.087] Kent Bye: Awesome. Well, thanks so much for joining me here on the podcast at the piece of MLK Now is the Time. I felt really emotionally moving and so effective at integrating all these different aspects of agency and embodiment to be able to tap into different dimensions of MLK's speech and to have new access to it and to put it into today's context. And yeah, just a really amazing job at the storytelling and all the ways that you were able to put it together. So thanks so much for joining me today on the podcast.

[01:04:51.011] Limbert Fabian: Thank you. Thanks for allowing us to talk about the project.

[01:04:53.912] Andrina Wekontash Smith: Thank you so much. This was delightful.

[01:04:56.779] Kent Bye: So that was Lumbert Fabian. He's the director of MLK, Now Is The Time, as well as Andrina Wicontash-Smith, who is the writer of MLK, Now Is The Time. So I have a number of takeaways about this interview is that first of all, well, they did a really, really amazing job of taking what is really an iconic speech of MLK. I have a dream. But typically when you think about that speech, there's been a certain sections of that have played over and over and over again, but there's actually a lot of other dimensions of that speech that they dive into through this piece and really bring the point home in terms of, you know, connecting the dots between the themes that MLK was talking about when he gave the speech and what's still happening today. I mean, there's certain aspects of that speech that could be played at a Black Lives Matter rally, and it would be just as relevant as to what's happening today, especially all the stuff that's happening around police brutality. But there's other aspects of the housing and they did an amazing job of translating that into a game and it's a game where you have no agency. So it's frustrating because normally in games you have choices that you can make but there's literally no choices that you can make and that's the whole point of the game is to take away your agency and to show the multi-generational aspects of some of these different decisions and how they accumulate over time. at more of a ecological systemic level. So they did a really brilliant job of elucidating a lot of those different deeper patterns through the metaphor of this game and to show a lot of really symbolic translations of that. The houses going away, the different prison fences that come up, the cars that are driving, there's all this kind of color coding that is coming back to this redlining maps that Banks had to decide Who would or would not get alone and who had the ability to be able to accumulate their wealth and to buy? Land and a home and to improve it. So this is something that is happening at this large level of a city But they're able to translate that down into a very personal experience and through the metaphor of this game And then the the voting rights being taken away where you're trying to actually vote But it's a simple action of just trying to reach out and grab something but it's being snatched away kind of like the Charlie Brown Lucy pulling back the Football again again, but in this case there's all these different things that are happening in the context of our politics during the United States where the right to vote isn't necessarily guaranteed and there's a lot of Incentives to try to take away people's right to vote through all these different mechanisms that have happened over the years And so you have this simple embodied interactions that was deeply effective of invoking that emotion but also having the world design reflect the fractured nature of this kind of bifurcation of who does or does not get the right to vote and So overall, this was just a really brilliant execution of immersive storytelling. And the gesture is a really engaging and effective way to serve as a navigation, but also to give you this embodied experience of solidarity throughout the course of this piece as well. And so just really masterfully done. Highly, highly recommend checking it out and keeping an eye on what both Lembert and Andrina do in the future in this space of immersive storytelling. 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 enjoyed the podcast, then please do spread the word, tell your friends, and consider becoming a member of the Patreon. This is a supported podcast, and so I do rely upon donations from people like yourself in order to continue to bring you this coverage. So you can become a member and donate today at patreon.com slash voicesofvr. Thanks for listening.

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