Let's talk Bryn Oh.
If you're a story-seeker like me, you'll probably have been to plenty of his prior exhibitions on Second Life. Lots of things about Imogen, for example, about her being a little crazy or the amount of people she's killed... it's basically an interactive storybook experience where you follow the main character's adventures.
Now let's talk his newest creation. Immersiva, which is a story about a girl named Kumiko. At first, I was a little hesitant because there are a lot of instructions to follow when you first get there. Windlight this, no facelight that, make sure to do this and that and... well, so on and so on. There are pages upon pages for what you should do in order to make the story as immersive as possible.
And let me tell you: it is all worth it.
Bryn Oh has always created works of art on Second Life, but I would like to comment that I personally feel this latest creation takes the gold. Now with voices to tell the story, express methods to get everyone to see the best possible version of what is created, and even a health metre that allows you to die; I was definitely feeling this story. Definitely.
This post will have spoilers, so for people who care about that, stop and drop everything RIGHT NOW and just click on the link for Immersiva. Do it and follow all the instructions to a T. Trust me on this.
Also, do not bring a group as for the full
immersion, there are only ten people allowed on the sim at once. Let
other people get a chance to experience this story as well; limit it to a
few friends at the very least, or one at a time.
Now, for those of you who don't care about story spoilers, let me give you a quick peek at this immersive masterpiece.
As per usual of Bryn Oh stories, you're searching for little clues along the way to place everything together. Your job is to gather letters, notes, click on the right locations to tell you things... well, this time, it's not telling you anything at all -- instead, it zooms in on the object when you click on it, just like a video game! Neat, huh?
Anyway, this story is about a girl named Kumiko. We'll get mentions of Imogen here, but she's not the main character of this story. Kumiko is... lost, for the better sense of a word. Or perhaps, you are the one who is lost in this dark, dark world. The settings are unnerving: dark enough that you wouldn't be able to see your hand in front of you. No external light is allowed for the story experience, and that includes the natural light Second Life provides even in the darkest of nights. The instructions will tell you just how to turn it all off.
You start off at the scene of a car crash, and the framework of this story is quite obvious. There is a car and a mangled bike on the road, and spilled belongings in the streets.
From there on out, it's a dark maze trying to figure out where you are, what happened, and how to get out. Or whether you want to get out at all, because at first the place is dark and serene of a sort... no matter how eerie, Kumiko's thoughts and tone has a sort of patience to it. She is nostalgic and doesn't care so much to leave, despite the vehemence of the letters she continues to receive. Instead, she speaks of her life and her dog, of pets and how a company who managed a method of combining animals and machine made her fall in love with a new pet after her old one died... much to her own consternation and guilt. She speaks of a world that is transient, that is delicate but strong in a way her current one (not this dark world, but where she comes from) is not. Kumiko tells stories of genetically modified rabbits for easy game, of honeybees and hybrids and a world where everything could be done... but should it be?
At first, the experience was a calming one for me, as unnerving as it might have been. I would look for the next site, for the next letter and for Kumiko's soothing voice, just stopping to listen to her words while I pondered which direction to head next... until my first encounter with the rabbit.
I say the "rabbit" because it was something that looked... a bit like a caricature of one -- like a jack-in-the-box on wheels, gruesome and detestable, moving in a disjointed manner and flashing red lights. This is where your health comes in... this rabbit on wheels can and will kill you unless you run from it. My first experience ended up with me completely lost and with less than thirty percent of my health. It was only after that I started getting very jumpy in this story.
The sounds are fantastic. The scripting is beyond what I've encountered on Second Life so far. There are times when the only light you have, which isn't much at all, goes off and you're left to fend entirely for yourself in the dark. There are times when you stumble upon scenes with no explanation at all, and you're left paranoid that perhaps you've triggered something you very much don't want to have triggered. And as you go on, the letters you receive become more and more frantic -- urging you to find an exit, to not wander, to stay away from certain creatures. Soon it becomes rather questionable who you should trust -- the letters, or the creatures who have helped you at every turn in this strange and warped world?
And most importantly, always most importantly, do you really want to go back at all?
As terrifying as this place can be (and for me, it got rather terrifying), I always wanted a way out. But Kumiko, on the other hand, slowly shows that perhaps what we experience in this dream of hers is nothing as horrific as what the real world has become, even if it has not personally hunted her down yet. The world has been modified and altered so heavily that even memories may not be true, and this weighs heavily on Kumiko, who believes in the ephemeral. "Each moment," she says in one scene, "is special simply because it is finite. [...] A memory is eternal, untouchable." For her, Kumiko feels that to change things so inherently special is "a mockery of what it is to live." She relates a scene she witness while half-hearted looking for a way out, of herself all hooked up to strings that led away. The real her, she says, is this.
Should we really be given that power over ourselves? Over the world? Over life and death and everything in-between? If something bad happened, if someone was meant to die, would it be cheating to bring them back using technology? Our digitalization, our zeroes and ones, are changing the way the world works. But, as Kumiko states through the story, the more we try to save the world by making ourselves gods, the worse the turn-out.