interactive VR experience, 2022
The CONTROL NEGATIVE experience is an exercise in the loss. Using the techniques of VR, author Monika Masłoń tries to situate the viewer in an emotional state where frustration, helplessness, anger, and sadness are able to reveal basic human assumptions, including the illusory conviction of being fully in control of one's own life. The unreal world of the experience — a negative version of the real world — is a training space where you can better understand yourself and your emotions. The user is guided through seven chapters, which gradually move from physical activity to contemplation.
While working on an earlier VR project, I was intrigued by moments when the experience of immersion was suddenly disrupted and the medium revealed its own presence; for instance, when technical glitches allowed me to walk through “solid” objects, or when a weak signal created a delay between controller inputs and my movements in virtual space.
Moments of disruption are usually considered undesirable in interactive games. For users and players, the experience stops being “real”; the emptiness behind the facade is revealed. Confronted with the illusion, we remember that we are being fooled and also fooling ourselves. These seeming imperfections became more interesting to me than creating a convincing illusion; they reminded me of the experience of loss, when the familiar world suddenly changes completely. In the real and the virtual worlds, loss and disruption challenge our sense of being in control.
Control and immersion are critical elements of interactive VR. Video games are all about control. Being in control allows us to play and to win. But, in a certain sense, being in control is winning. The illusion of control makes us want to move virtual candy symbols, shoot space invaders, and develop ancient civilizations. This gives us a sense of agency.
Control is key to success in all areas of life. We strive to control ourselves, our appearance, our minds, our emotions, our time, our relationships. As a society, we try to control nature, even if it will lead to our eventual self-destruction. Control has many different facets. Yet few things shatter our sense of control as completely as loss.
How can we practice letting go of control? No one wants to play a game where they have no control, but by using the virtual space to create empathy and curiosity we can explore what it means to let go.