Reality-Plus … Immersive Design Summit Recap

photo taken during Matt Soson’s All The World’s A Stage workshop at Bella Vista park

The Immersive Design Summit* just wrapped up in San Francisco. Over the past few days, 200 immersive-and-related folks gathered to learn, discuss, workshop, party, escape, conspire, and embrace each other and our shared love of all things immersive.

*[A review for those who don’t know: immersive encapsulates many things here: immersive theater, escape rooms, ARGs (Alternate Reality Games), art installations, VR (virtual reality), AR (augmented reality), site-specific work, pod plays, etc etc etc and any intersection and blend of the above! So much creativity packed into the Swedish American Hall.]

I came representing my play, SPIES!, aiming to learn what other folks are doing, what people see as possibilities for the space, and to FOMO about all of the incredible work that is happening all over the world. (For example, watch this amazing trailer video from Paris’s Big Drama. I wish I could have gone to the show! And I got to hang with their very lovely and brilliant creative director, Alexis. Their next show, CLOSE, opens soon, so if you are headed to Paris, check them out)

I learned A LOT. We also played the wonderful Palace Games’ HOUDINI ROOM (and got out with 1 min 30 sec to spare!). This was one of the best escape rooms, both narratively and design-wise, I’d ever done. We also went to SPEAKEASY SF for a lovely night of immersive theater and costume-wearing, partied in THE MUSEUM OF ICE CREAM and ONEDOME, and ate pancakes at 2 am after the after party because sometimes* you just need pancakes.

*(all the time)

(L to R) Museum of Ice Cream, Keynote from Fri Forjindam of Mycotoo, Speakeasy SF (outside, as no phones are allowed inside!)

I leave SF inspired, with my “creative well” truly refilled (one of my main goals). I have new knowledge, new friendships, and new ideas. One of the big questions I asked people was “what would be your dream/ideal immersive experience to go to”… and I heard a huge range.

Some recurring and/or interesting responses on what would be involved:

  • good puzzles (challenging)
  • story that is deep and narratively satisfying
  • Characters and stories that persist over longer periods of time, so you can engage with them over time (ranging from weeks to months to longer), so having an ARG attached or even having the experience run for longer periods of time
  • experiences that are surreal or totally different than reality (rather than just a historic experience or a familiar world like typical western-culture fantasy)
  • Lots of opportunity for exploration
  • An experience you can share with your friends, but that has good story lines for everyone who attends (no one is left out or feels like they had a “bad” track)
  • A longer duration experience like a weekend or a week where the story can really sweep you up and you have a character who affects change

WOW that’s a lot. Anyone want to create the above? Sounds like a big undertaking! So I want to ask you, the audience: what would be your dream immersive experience? Puzzles or no? Solo or group, and how large of a group? Repeatable or one-off? Funny? Dramatic? Scary? Emotional? Let me know in the comments.