When we sat down for our first group meeting, we threw around concept ideas. I tossed out a few ideas that I felt could be fun, but also had commercial potential. I suggested that we create AR fortune cookies. The Scenario would look something like this: While at a restaurant, you finish your meal and along with your bill you are given a fortune cookie of some sort. It could be in the shape of a traditional Chinese fortune cookie or it could be something completely different. Any sort of container, or vessel if you will, for the AR marker. Once the fortune cookie has been opened, a card would be revealed containing instructions for downloading a smartphone app. Perhaps the restaurant’s own app that has a “Fortune Cookie” button which launches the AR app. The fortune would appear in the form of one of one or more AR experiences including: music, spoken fortune, silent video, abstract visuals, or any number of other media. This presents the possibility for the creation of serialized content, thus engaging the patron in more than a gastronomical experience. The Fortune cookie content could be self-contained, or those at a single table, or multiple tables if the restauranteur wanted to create a broader social experience, could combine their fortunes to reveal a deeper meaning. Perhaps a bit far-fetched, but not so when one considers Jane McGonigal’s examples in Reality is Broken.
Another idea that I had was for AR event invitations. When someone receives a wedding invitation in the mail they open the envelope and read the invitation details, which include a URL to visit or an app to install on their smartphone. The invitation when viewed with a computer webcam or smartphone, depending on the technology used, would reveal video of the betrothed couple, personally inviting the recipient to their nuptials. Although group members did like both ideas, they did not fit into the Unity workflow to which we had committed. As a result, I kept my remaining list of ideas of this ilk to myself.
Talk then turned to a narrative-based project of some sort. Colleen told us the story of Eva. The initial intention for the “Eva” project was to document the life of a real person in a traditional documentary format. I wanted to blur the lines beyond fact and fiction, never allowing the viewer to know what was real and was an impressionistic rendering of reality. When Colleen told us Eva’s story I immediately thought that we should make the objects that belonged to Eva receptacles of memory. When I blurted this out to the group Colleen said that she remembered hearing a story of a castle that did just what I was suggested. Not an original idea apparently, but still a cool one. We went with it and did a bit of research into the Castle. So, in addition to the story of Eva being based in reality, so is the story of the castle. The castle in our tale is a composite of Berkeley Springs Castle in West Virginia, and Muncaster Castle in Cumbria Country in North West England.
I knew that in addition to creating game objects, I wanted to create a visceral world for the end user. My goal was to create a series of mini-vignettes that would serve as pin-hole glimpses into a life. I decided that I would only use music and soundscape that I composed myself, the only exception being “Auld lang syne” which I did not compose but this version is my own arrangement performed by Brielle Goheen on violin and me on everything else. I also wanted to only use photos and video that I shot, or at the very least, that I had found in the real world. Not on the internet. I succeeded in adhering to both of these self-imposed creatively limiting/liberating stipulations.
What follows is a brief discussion of each “vessel of memory”. Some vignettes were intended to be triggered by very different objects, but alas not everything is Vuforia-friendly.
The following is a link to an external site containing the videos that correspond to the descriptions below.
The Content of the Vessels of Memory
My mother once told me a story (Intro)
This object (picnic basket) is the user’s threshold into Eva’s world. The young Eva’s voice, transforming into that of the adult Eva, recalls a story of a haunting. This introduction presents elements (mother, superstition, water) that will be revisited over the course of the user experience.
Who is John? Who am I? (8track)
This experience is about duplicity and paradox, with references presented throughout the video clip to illustrate this theme.
My mother was superstitious. (8track back)
This object when turned over reveals the hidden side of life. The spaces beyond normal view. In this view we are privy to some of Eva’s beliefs based on stories that her mother told her. This object’s content functions as part one in a set of two. The second object reveals additional information about her superstitions and how they relate to her own life.
Eva, who’s in there with you? (25th plate)
The sound of my own heartbeat is the main soundtrack to this object. The anniversary plate is a portal into a seemingly normal life interspersed with suggestive imagery of spider webs and water. Themes of drowning in reality and going deeper into darkness are visually presented with an irregular voice (my own speaking backwards and then reversed) asking a question of Eva that could be interpreted in several ways.
The myth of Mary Magdalene (Bernie)
Every narrative needs a bit of Judeo-Christian allegory. Mary Magdalene is symbolic of Eva as follower, iconoclast, and, depending on one’s interpretation, sinful woman. Visual imagery of soup kitchens, homelessness, Toronto from the night sky, and a spider web present elements of Eva’s real story as well as threads, no pun intended, of ongoing story elements.
They speak to me (Engagement)
For this object, my own field recording of the Islamic call to prayer in Istanbul, is combined with background cafe conversations, reverse dialogue, and original music composed for guitar and violin. This piece outlines potential mental illness that may or may not have precipitated an eventual crime of passion.
What if? (Moonlight Sonata-Woman-Snowflakes)
This sheet music is a reference to the real Eva, who played piano and worked at the Royal Conservatory of Music. The sheet music target is the same piece of music played by the young Eva in one of our videos. The hidden content (behind the clock) is a continuation of “My mother was superstitious”, creating additional connections to be made between characters. This game is littered with symbolism of the mid-20th century woman, and Eva in particular.
All Ephemeral (Scan Game-Man-Sunrise)
This object is a metaphor for the transience of existence, or maybe I’m reading too much into it. Perhaps we are never anywhere, but always in between places. The real world “Scan Game” provides a series of symbols to be deciphered as a next step toward the next thing, which is in turn just after that thing and just before the next.
Times long past (White Christmas)
Auld lang syne (times long past) is used as the sonic backdrop for this experience. Christmas is always a time of looking back, never of looking of forward. Using my own family movies (I’m the little boy) combined with my own arrangement of the classic holiday song, this piece serves as a moment of nostalgia for what the passing of time inevitably takes away from us.