Ghosts, Toast and Things Unsaid

20 Immersive Things — Blockchain books, Neo-Noir adventures, Multi-player AR & more…

July edition of Immersive Things a new monthly round-up

The following is a list of immersive experiences that mix story, play, design and code.

At Columbia DSL we explore new forms and functions of storytelling. Through our programs, prototypes and events we strive to build collaborative spaces that push at the edges of the impossible.

We’re always searching for interesting immersive things. If you know of something that we should experience or if you’re interested in collaborating with us please let us know.

We also hold monthly meetups at the Film Society of Lincoln Center and are currently building a global prototyping community.

A Universe Explodes — Editions at Play

“What sets A Universe Explodes apart is how you access it. “We wanted to see if we could make a limited edition digital book,” says Anna Gerber, a co-founder of Editions at Play. This idea stands at odds with how the internet usually works. Most content on the web is open to whoever wants to access it. If it’s not, then it’s usually locked down, accessible by password only. A Universe Explodes sits somewhere between these two. Anyone can read the book, but only a select number can own it.”

Cuphead — Studio MDHR

“Cuphead is a classic run and gun action game heavily focused on boss battles. Inspired by cartoons of the 1930s, the visuals and audio are painstakingly created with the same techniques of the era, i.e. traditional hand drawn cel animation, watercolor backgrounds, and original jazz recordings.”

Indigo Grey — Hammerstep

“Since we’re dealing with superhuman abilities in our narrative show, we wanted to give audience members the perception that they have, for a moment, a superhuman ability. Or an ability to move an object, or interact with the digital set, or something along those lines. We worked with the drone team to develop gesture-based motion control without sensors. It allows us to feel an energetic connection with the drone without having a device there.” — Read more below.

Wolverine The Long Night — Marvel + Stitcher

“Wolverine: The Long Night,” the newest venture from Marvel and Stitcher, is a 10-part audio drama released in podcast form. Not only is the story the first of its kind for Marvel in this hyper-evolving podcast world, it’s wholly unique within the superhero world the way it uses its larger-than-life title character.” — IndieWire

Radiant One — Fntastic

“Radiant One is an illusory, story-driven adventure with mystical elements. Trying to escape from boring life and social media, one day Daniel found a mysterious book about lucid dreams. Very quickly he was able to do incredible things, create amazing worlds and fly during sleep until one day his dreams fell under the power of something inexplicable, something terrible conceived by the Universe itself… Help Daniel survive, pass the test and get enlightenment.”

A Case of Distrust — The Wandering Ben

“A Case of Distrust is a narrative mystery from 1924 San Francisco. Play as private investigator Phyllis Cadence Malone in this historical 2D adventure game. Explore underground speakeasies, smoke-filled billiard halls, classic barber shops, and more. Catch suspects in lies by using evidence, statements, and your wits. Intrinsic challenges face our heroine, as she struggles against a pushback on emancipation, leading to many doubts, both internal and external. Uncover the truth in a mystery full of deception!” — Read more below

Rabbits — Public Radio Alliance

“When Carly Parker’s friend Yumiko goes missing under very mysterious circumstances, Carly’s search for her friend leads her headfirst into a ancient mysterious game known only as Rabbits. Soon Carly begins to suspect that Rabbits is much more than just a game, and that the key to understanding Rabbits, might be the key to the survival of our species, and the Universe, as we know it.” Read More

Frankenstein AI — Columbia DSL

Note: This is a project developed and produced in collaboration with the Columbia University School of the Arts’ Digital Storytelling Lab. It’s a multiyear design research project and we’re actively looking for collaborators.

“Perhaps the most ambitious piece at New Frontier, A.I. or otherwise, was the multifaceted transmedia work “Frankenstein AI: A Monster Made by Many” by Rachel Ginsberg, Nick Fortugno and Lance Weiler. Billed as a “participatory installation and performance,” the total experience, which will tour this fall, spanned over two hours and involved elements of theater, dance, collaborative storytelling, philosophy, Mary Shelley and, of course, artificial intelligence. — IndieWire

Face to Face — Michaela Holland, Michelle Gabel & Michelle Fox

“Face to Face, commissioned by the festival and winner of the alternate realities virtual reality award, was an extraordinary three-room experience involving the shocking story of Michelle Fox who, in 2009, was injured in a near-fatal gun accident caused by her ex-husband. She lost her eyes, nose and upper palate and now wears a silicone facial prosthetic made specially for her. The photojournalist Michelle Gabel had been documenting her life since 2014 and was then introduced to Michaela Holland, an immersive storyteller who collaborated with them on this piece.” — The Guardian

Westworld @ SXSW — Gaint Spoon

“In the aftermath of this year’s SXSW, there seemed to be a clear consensus of the winner of the groundbreaking festival: HBO & Giant Spoon’s impossibly immersive Westworld experience. The praise-heaping reactions didn’t stop there. Much of the immediate news coverage declared it the greatest activation ever and one of the best publicity stunts of the 21st century.”

The Lockdown — ABN AMRO

“In this experience, you’re an expert contracted by Interpol’s cybercrime division to crack a seemingly unsolvable case. Use the AR objects around you, your holodesk and your brain to prevent a worldwide meltdown. Can you out-think everyone else?”

Manifest 99 — Flight School Studio

“MANIFEST 99 is an ominous and eerie VR story set on a train rumbling through the afterlife. Accompanied by a murder of crows and four mysterious travel companions, you must uncover the reason why they — and you — are on this train traveling into the great beyond. Gaze into their eyes and discover the remnants of their weary souls, before they pass on.”

Behind the City — Third Rail

Photo from No Proscenium review (link below)

“It’s an Alfred Hitchcock moment on a Frank Capra kind of a night. You are standing on a downtown Manhattan street corner, not knowing where to go, when a gesturing hand steers your eyes upward. Your gaze is directed to a window, which frames a man and a woman in bed. They appear to be making love, but you sense a restless discontent.” — New York Times

Codename: Neon — Niantic Labs

“Developer of the hugely popular Pokémon GO, Niantic Labs, has taken to Twitter to showcase a new prototype that the company have been working dubbed Codename: Neon. The title, showcase in a short video posted on the new Niantic Engineering Twitter account, is a multiplayer augmented reality (AR) gaming experience that allows for intense neon filled battles.”

Empty Faces — Gnomish Hat

“If we can break reality for even a split second, that’s the whole goal there,” says Ryan Hogan, who cofounded Hunt a Killer with Derrick Smith in 2016. Hogan, Hunt a Killer’s CEO, and Smith, the company’s creative lead, previously led Reed Street Productions, which organized obstacle-course-inspired 5Ks called “Run for Your Lives,” an aspect they took seriously: Races featured actors dressed as zombies, who chased runners for a little bit of athletic je ne sais quoi (adrenalin). The pair then began organizing in-person events under the guise of Hunt a Killer, including a 2016 event at a 200-acre campground outside Baltimore where small teams worked to find a fictional serial killer over a three-hour period.” — Read More

Microfiction Mondays — Serial Box

“A couple years ago, startup publisher Serial Box launched with an aim to publish stories in a slightly different way: tell a longer story by breaking it up into manageable, shorter stories, written by a team of writers. Now, the publisher is experimenting with a new way to deliver even shorter stories: via push notifications.”

Donut County — Ben Esposito

“Esposito’s obsession with Los Angeles doughnut culture sparked the idea for his latest game, Donut County, a pastel, raccoon-infused puzzle game where players control a hole that grows every time it swallows a new object. It’s heading to PC, iOS and PlayStation 4 next year, published by Annapurna Interactive. Esposito is an established game designer best known for his work on The Unfinished Swan and What Remains of Edith Finch, and he’s a founder of Glitch City LA, a successful incubator for local developers. Games to come out of Glitch City include high-profile indie hits Hyper Light Drifter, Dream Daddy, Quadrilateral Cowboy and Frog Fractions 2.” — Engadget


“While this sounds like a lark, or perhaps another iteration of the faded online world Second Life, there’s already real money behind the blockchain-based real estate. In December, Kunzmann paid $15,000 for 62 plots of about 1,100 square feet apiece, and he recouped his investment three months later by reselling a mere eight of them. Today, resellers can reliably get as much as $30,000 for a Genesis City plot. Credit network paid almost $150,000 for a spot next to the main square where visitors appear when they enter the city. The record is $200,000, sold by a user who’d recently bought the same plot for $13,000.” — Bloomberg

The Waiting Game — ProPublica + WNYC

Note: This project was co-created by Columbia DSL member Nick Fortugno

The Waiting Game is designed to simulate the experience of someone seeking asylum in the United States. You follow the story of five different unnamed people, all of whom are based on real people. Each is being persecuted for different reasons — race, religion, politics — like their real counterparts. You follow them from the moment they decide to flee their location to the moment they stand in front of an immigration judge.” — The Next Web

Ghosts, Toast and The Things Unsaid — Sandpit, Google Creative Lab, Grumpy Sailor

“Ghosts is an intimate experience in which two audience members (the ‘ghosts’) revisit the kitchen where they fell in love and grew old, during 50 years together. The performance features special mobile audio technology which allows the audience to ‘tune in’ to the inner thoughts of the actors as they pan around a 360-degree set. The result is a mix of live action (spoken on stage) and inner monologue (delivered through tiny speakers embedded in special costumes) which provokes the audience to meditate on our propensity to keep secrets, the words that go unheard, and what this means for our relationships.” — Read More

Additional Resources

Digital Catapult Report

NPR’s guide to building immersive storytelling projects