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Illya Szilak (DrSzilak) Dev Blog Week 1: Atomic Vacation

Level 5

tgffjtoi901k.pngI have been working on my paper "Surfaces and Spaces:  Narrativity in VR" that I am presenting at the Electronic Literature Conference in Victoria next week. Although text is not much used in VR for various reasons, I explore what role written and spoken language might have in the emerging language of VR. I will post slides and paper, once it is finished. 

It is now a week since I completed a three week residency in digital narratives at BANFF Arts Centre in Canada. It enabled me to think through my next digital narrative Atomic Vacation  and create an installation and an animation/trailer done in collaboration with master animator Sasha Stanojevic.

About the Project: 

Atomic Vacation will be a narrative virtual reality game. By moving through and interacting with a series of surreal environments that incorporate images, sound, and video from historical archives and other creative commons sources, the player will learn the story of Shizuku, a little robot girl from a near apocalyptic future, the lone inhabitant of a rocket ship on a mission to find habitable planets.
In the setting of a nuclear apocalypse, Shizuku decides to cut off communication with Earth. This causes a secret program to run—a cell-phone video “goodbye” from Riyoko, the woman who was charged with teaching her how to “be” human on Earth many years ago. Witnessing this invokes traces of erased memories and leads Shizuku on a search to recreate(replay) Ray’s story and her own. 

 The environments are representative of Shizuku’s memory banks, and as such, have a peculiar organization that mixes the quotidian with the epic. Much of the text in the current installation will be experienced as sound (different voices (all Shizuku) reciting poetry, news accounts, philosophy as well as Shizuku’s usual voice telling her personal story) in the VR environment. In addition, users will find videos (ostensibly recorded by Shizuku) interacting with Ray, as well as email, text, and telephone recordings (thank you NSA!) between Shizuku and Ray. 

For the user, gameplay will consist in wandering through environments looking for rainbow teardrops (since robots can’t cry) and completing thought puzzles to gain more time (time is always running out). All of the environments are meant to invoke different ways in which information and meaning might be organized. In the end, the purpose of Atomic Vacation is to provide a wonderful, but unsettling experience that provides the user the opportunity to consider what it means to be human and how the notion of what “passes” (as in passing the Turing test) will change with our increasingly virtual and computer-mediated existence. 



Level 4
It sounds very poignant.

Level 5
Thanks, Robin. I also got good news today. My longtime collaborator, interactive designer is going to learn Unity to do this project with me. I didn't even ask! He offered.  I am so excited!