Real & Virtual Worlds — Review Week #1

For the first series of viewings, I was tasked with watching the content:

  • Ready Player One (Warner Bros. Pictures)
  • Kiss Me First (Channel 4)
  • Black Mirror “San Junipero” (Season 3, Episode 4, Netflix)

Alongside these, I was asked to explore the different media within:

  • First Look: Artists’ VR iOS app
  • “VR Art blog” by Denis Semionov

READY PLAYER ONE

Firstly, Ready Player One (a film by Warner Bros. Pictures, 2018) based on Ernest Cline’s 2011 novel of the same name, takes place in the year 2045. The story follows protagonist, Wade Watts, as he participates in the Halliday contest. Mr. Halliday or James Halliday is the creator of the VR universe known as the “Oasis”. This challenge was set in place after he died to decide who would inherit and take control of the OASIS and thus gain his fortune.

Many of the planets’ inhabitants use the OASIS as means of escaping the real world, as it is in disarray following the crisis that occurred a year prior and thus live and become hugely attached to their avatars. This is primarily shown within the opening scenes in which the stepdad becomes angry with Wade for stealing his haptic gloves, which he claims, cost him their house as he had wagered highly on winning. Another example is shown by a child seeming to “bother” his mother whilst she is in-game and she gets extremely angry when she “zeros out”. “Zero out” is the term coined with an avatar losing all their in-game currency and having to restart from the beginning. As many people live in poverty within the real world, this is an opportunity for them to feel wealthy and as there is the possibility of being able to purchase upgrades both in-game and in life with the currency (as shown by Wade ordering the new suit in-game after winning the first tournament) this enhances the importance of retaining and gaining currency.

Another ideal reinforced throughout the narrative of Ready Player One is of Virtual Reality being employed to preserve Halliday’s memory. For example, players can access every media form, event and thought over James’ lifetime through the Journals, which serves as a virtual library. This is utilised by “Gunters”, a short term, for Easter Egg hunters, to hunt for clues that may lead them to Halliday’s fortune. Although this is employed within the universe solely for the purpose of the contest and to preserve Halliday’s legacy as he was played a huge role in the lives of many, we could see this happening widely within the future. Such as, many people within the modern day are constantly looking for new ways to preserve the memories of their loved ones from jewellery to tattoos with ink created from ashes! This ideal links to other media such as in Cyberpunk 2077, a video game produced by CD Project Red, 2020, in which Johnny Silverhand’s consciousness is preserved in the form of a virtual engram. Previous examples from past years includes: Chappie (2015, Columbia Pictures), Chappie is granted the ability to transfer his consciousness into new bodies to prevent him from dying and within Transcendence (2014, Warner Bros. Pictures) in which Evelyn uploads the consciousness of her husband Will, into his project once she learns he has little time left to live.

KISS ME FIRST

Kiss Me First is a television programmed originally aired on Channel 4 in 2018. The premise follows Leila, a young 17-year-old, addicted to a VR MMORPG named Azana as she finds herself escaping within the world following the death of her mother. Within the virtual world, she befriends a mysterious character named “Tess” who masquerades herself as a party girl. The show follows their friendship developing and the events that unfold around them; both in the real-life and in-game.

Unfortunately, I found it difficult to engage with the show and only managed to watch the first episode. However, from what I saw, the show clearly exhibits the characters’ use of VR as a sole means of escaping reality, particularly as she struggles to cope with her mother’s passing.

BLACK MIRROR “SAN JUNIPERO”

This episode of the critically acclaimed Netflix series follows an elderly woman reliving her youthful memories through the simulated reality known as “San Junipero”. The events take place in the 1980’s and follows the pairs relationship through time to the present day.

Upon visiting Yorkie in the physical world many years later, Kelly learns that she was paralysed at the age of 21 after crashing her car and wished to be euthanized so she could live in San Junipero permanently. Her parents object and therefore she marries Kelly who grants her wish. She begs Kelly to join her, but she refuses at the time due to stating that she plans to die without being uploaded to the situation as her husband chose the same fate due to losing their daughter before the alternative existed. After a time, she changes her mind and after passing, joins Yorkie to live a happily ever after in the virtual world.

This concept is extremely similar to Ready Player One as it focuses on using a virtual simulated space to preserve the memories and livelihood of the deceased and enables loved ones to visit and remember them in their youth.

“VR ART BLOG” BY DENIS SEMIONOV & FIRST LOOK: ARTISTS VR

Both works explore how art can be viewed within a virtual gallery. This is an interesting new concept proposed and directly shows how virtual reality can be used to create a new experience based on pre-existing activities. I feel that due to the pandemic, virtual experiences such as visiting an art gallery, have grown in popularity as it is the only current way in which to interact with exhibits safely. Although it may be argued that viewing a painting in virtual space only slightly differs to simply looking at it on a screen, I feel that by the sense of embodiment within ones’ avatar, it vastly changes the perspective. Artists can design pieces solely with the intent of VR interaction, which can lead to deeper meaning being found within as opposed to viewing a static object.

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