Astronomical concert with Travis Scott, by Fortnite. Courtesy of Epic Games.
From local bars to music festivals, cultural locales are being recreated for a new world
In May 2020, one loyal regular used VR to recreate his local pub – Skehan’s, in the London Borough of Southwark. “There have been a lot of valiant attempts to circumvent our coronavirus restrictions, with people ‘sharing’ virtual pints with the aid of Zoom, but I can’t help but feel like there’s something fundamentally lacking,” says Tristan Cross in a Wired article that explains his decision and details his process. “The space where this experience takes place is a crucial part of the experience itself,” he adds.
Others seem to agree. BrewDog, for one, is reimagining the traditional bar experience for improved virtual engagement. For each of its 102 physical locations across Australia, Germany, the UK and the US, BrewDog is creating a virtual bar offering a digital environment in which locals and regulars can connect during online sessions.
Musicians, meanwhile, are taking to the virtual stage. On 23 April 2020, rapper Travis Scott put on a virtual concert in Fortnite, where he debuted new music for the nearly 28 million players in attendance. Following the concert’s success (it was the biggest event in Fortnite’s history), Epic Games launched Party Royale – a violence-free in-game party mode. The launch featured DJ and producer Diplo performing a live Major Lazer set.
Club Matryoshka, an exclusive virtual club located on a private server in Minecraft, hosted a 24-hour virtual music festival from 26-27 April 2020. The space, which was created in 2019, boasts sound stages, DJ booths and dance floors with views of unique skylines and landscaping. Called Infinite Summer, the festival hosted musicians on three stages, with an audience of avatars whose players could enjoy the music and interact with other festival-goers as if IRL.
Fortnite Party Royale. Courtesy of Epic Games.
Retro video games are being resurrected, too, as unique venues for raves and music festivals, with DJ sets performed in the Dam level of Goldeneye 64, the Legend of Zelda’s Hyrule Castle and Sonic’s Green Hill Zone.
The travel industry is also exploring digital destinations, looking to a future of virtual vacations. Philippe Brown, founder of luxury travel company Brown and Hudson, believes the “convergence of different technologies into the virtual realm could create a serious and exciting alternative to the reality of travel”. He explains, “in the uber-luxury realm, we’re already speaking with a client who’d like us to scope out the creation of a virtual travel experience designed exclusively for their family to a land we co-create. It’s early days, but they imagine a destination that is a synthesis of several past journeys, some imagined and some on their wish list.”
Online culture clubs
Likewise, the cultural events central to travel – such as local tours and museum visits – are finding footholds on virtual platforms. Nintendo has introduced several seasonal events in Animal Crossings: New Horizons. During the first week of May, players were invited to celebrate May Day by using a one-time ticket at the island airport to head out on a limited-time tour. From 18-31 May 2020, players can celebrate International Museum Day by going to various in-game museum exhibits to view fish, insects and fossils. And in April 2020, the Getty created the Animal Crossing Art Generator, which allows players to view and collect famous pieces of artwork from the museum’s archive.
Meticulously crafted, these sophisticated digital locales offer an alternative to Zoom-based socialising and point to a future where entertaining is enhanced – rather than hindered – by virtual platforms.
11 June 2020
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