As detailed earlier in this blog, I have been developing a prototype concept for development which offers the narrative of an immersant as a hostage, at the mercy of a serial killer communicating with them from a remote location.
I have been exploring means and ways of creating a dynamic between spaces and immersant with performer to further develop the hostage concept discussed earlier in this blog for prototype performance.
In order to create an implied danger and narrative, it was decided that performer and immersant needed to be in seperate spaces, as this would provide a an interesting dynamic. The performer would be fully aware of the physical location of the immersant due to placing them in the physical space and situation before continuing to another space to form the beginning of the experience.
In order to create a feedback loop of communication and narrative between the two spaces I experimented with a number of technologies.
Firstly, using a modern approach I utilised Skype as a video feed from the immersant to the killer location, using just audio back to the immersant. However, in experimentation some problems became clear with this approach. The use of a computer/phone screen for the immersant could prove to be a distraction element as there are a number of other things which can take place on the screen thus detracting from the dialogue between the two spaces, and the narrative. Similarly, the visual output from a computer screen is bright and could illuminate the room. A focus of the aesthetic of the prototype was to keep the room small and dark in order to add to the narrative that someone was indeed kidnapped.
Often in horror gaming lighting elements are very low, and this was an aesthetic choice that I have chosen to bring over to experimentation in my work. For a lighting source, it was decided that a singular desk lamp could be used, as this would provide minimal yet effective lighting conditions so that the immersant could be sufficiently monitored, but also provide them with enough limited light in order to navigate the narrative of the piece.
Moving forward it was clear that in order to create an eerie sense of the killer’s presence, they would need to be able to monitor the hostage’s movement. Thankfully, I discovered a suitable solution in a technology which I already owned, which, whilst primitive, allows for a monitoring across spaces for the performer.
The EE Action Cam is similar to that of the GoPro, a small, tactile camera which is capable of being monitored by either a smartphone, or with an included watch with a screen. I experimented using both of these methods of monitoring and concluded the following, that both of these methods were effective in their monitoring capabilities, and that the connection between the devices was significantly more reliable than that of the connection offered by Skype as a program. Due to Skype being reliant on an internet connection on both devices with a reliable rate, it was susceptible to disconnection during use, which would be problematic. That isn’t to say that moments of disconnection could not prove useful in the dialogue between performer and immersant, but simply that by it not being able to be dictated by a defined code of the ‘game’ generated, we could not ensure that it would be used effectively. The EE Action Cam, in contrast, generates it’s own Wifi signal, which through testing can be used in different rooms of the same building efficiently. This provides us with the reliance we did not have from the use of a network over Skype.
Creating an audio link
Whilst the EE Action Cam provided me with the appropriate visual link between the immersant space and the performer space, it did not provide an audio connection.
In sticking with the horror theme and drawing from personal influences in the worlds of horror in digital games as well as those from cinematic examples, often low tech solutions are used to provide a sense of eerie danger. Couple this with the logic that serial killers would not necessarily like to operate over the internet due to monitoring etc, and I was left with a tangible and simple solution for communication of audio – telephones. This would provide the killer role the freedom to start and stop calls as they please, and enable a development of narrative through this. A simple phone call can provide a a conversational link between people, using a mobile network in this case.
The interesting choice in all of this, is that the performer is able to monitor the movement of the immersant, but there is no video feedback in the opposite direction. This is an intentional decision on the part of myself, due to taking influence from games explored in my research which monitor the choices of the player, but do not necessarily allow the player to be aware of the decisions being made by the game engine. This is basic coding, ‘if this then that’ mentality. This means that if a player does a specific thing in game, the engine responds dependent on the intended outcome. In digital games, artificial intelligence in the game design allows for the decisions to be made in regards to feedback. In my prototype, I will take on the role of the killer, and respond to decisions made via a similar system, but without the computer coding. This creation of a ‘coded’ performer could provide us with a different direction to digital game programming, as human minds are able to make decisions beyond linear coding. However, for the purpose of this feedback loop and technological experimentation, it has been decided that a human entity existing in different mediated elements allows for a simple prototype for development.