With the COVID-19 pandemic still ongoing and Singapore now in Phase 2 (Heightened Alert), most of the entertainment options we’re used to have been curtailed. Thankfully, with things slowly (oh so slowly) returning back to normal, we’re getting finally getting more exhibitions at the ArtScience Museum! Case in point, Virtual Realms: Videogames Transformed!
We’ve covered the Star Wars Identities event a couple of months back, but Virtual Realms is in a whole different league. Instead of leveraging on nostalgia and impressing with movie props, Virtual Realms instead mixes my favourite pastime (video gaming) and art to create interactive art pieces that are a mixture of both!
A collaboration between famous video game designers and media companies, the exhibits were all commissioned by Barbican International Enterprises for the masses. Famous names participating in the exhibit include Tetsuya Mizuguchi (Rez series, Lumines) and Hideo Kojima (Metal Gear series, Death Stranding).
ArtScience Museum Singapore was kind enough to invite us down to experience the exhibition before it opened to the public. We jumped at the chance!
Opening tomorrow, the exhibition is made out of 6 different exhibits, each with their own theme and installation!
There’s Synesthesia, with its exhibit called Rezonance, Unity with the exhibit Together: the distance between (us), Connection with Wall, Play with Dream Shaping, Narrative with Book of Sand and finally, Everything with Eye.
Each of the exhibits have their own styles to immerse yourself (and your family) in, which makes the exhibition feel truly unique as you move from one style to another.
Synthesia’s exhibit, Rezonance, has you playing around with special seeds to create sounds and visual effects.
Created by Tetsuya Mizuguchi (along Enhance) and Rhizomatiks, it was the first stop on the tour.
It’s a psychedelic affair that bombards you with a ton of colorful lights and sounds.
It’s a honestly a treat, even if you’re not participating in the activity. I enjoyed just standing by and watching other people play! It’s a fun experience and you’ll probably want to experience it more than once…so you might want to set aside some time as a session lasts about 5 minutes!
Next up, we hit the Unity portion of the exhibit, Together: the distance between (us). This piece was done by thatgamecompany and FIELD.IO.
This time around, there was a motion tracking device that tracked your positioning in the room to create lights and sounds. Unlike Synesthesia (which bombarded you with light and sound), this exhibit was more subdued and relaxed.
The lights and music give Unity a more tranquil feel, relaxing even. I felt as if I was in a meditation session instead of an art installation, which is a surreal experience to say the least.
Once we were done with Unity, we moved on to Connection’s The Wall, a collaboration between Hideo Kojima (alongside Kojima Productions) and The Mill.
It’s a unique take on Death Stranding’s main theme of human connection and features a HUGE interactive wall, with two different sides.
One side is all biological stuff, with cells multiplying and moving around. The other side, is from cosmic perspective, with energy particles and the like swirling around. No matter what side you’re on, you can manipulate what happens on screen. While neither side can see each other, ghostly outlines of people on either side of the wall do appear onscreen for you to play with.
It’s all very cool and transcendently weird, just like Death Stranding was, though you don’t need to have played the game to appreciate it. The visuals are definitely the best thing about this piece, though I did enjoy making the particles and cells move (and split and divide).
Next on the tour; the Narrative exhibit (Book of Sand), done by Tequila Works and The Workers.
This one is probably the exhibit with the biggest ties to video games. It’s based off Tequila Works’ RiME (which came out a few years back) and shows off some elements from the game, but massively overhauled for interactivity.
Depending on which scene you’re in, the exhibition can have you doing anything from coming together to stand in spotlights to open doors, to manually timing (and stepping into a spotlight) to trigger interactive elements, which are projected on a HUGE nearly 360 degree screen.
As a techie, I’m much (MUCH) more impressed by the wraparound screens! Just imagine playing a game or two in there!
After that’s done, we were briskly whisked away to the next installation section, Play. The installation’s called Dream Shaping and was done by Media Molecule, SIE Europe and Marshmallow Laser Feast.
Created completely in Dreams (PS4), this exhibit is a more carefree one compared to most of the others. Here you have to put on a helmet (attached with a sensor). If you’re afraid of COVID-19 contamination, don’t be! A hairnet’s provided AND the helmets are sanitized completely after every use!
Once I was geared up, I was escorted into a room with a couple of other people.
There’s a huge screen right in front of you as you enter. In the room, were 5 objects of different shapes and sizes. That’s where the shapes you’re holding will be shown.
I got screwed with the heaviest one (a square) because everybody else rushed to nab the lighter ones.
I was a sad panda for a while…then completely forgot about it as I was running around trying to hit colored misty things onscreen with my huge ass box. It’s fun, but if you’re a fatty and out of shape (like me), it’s also breathtaking…in a literal way.
I was pretty much out of breath by the time it was over!
I can honestly say this was one of my favourites out of all the exhibit. It’s pretty unique and quite fun too! While the other exhibits were cool, none were as physically demanding.
Finally (sweat dripping and all), we hit the last exhibit. This one’s under the Everything section, is called Eye. It’s created by David OReilly and onedotzero.
Based on Everything from OReilly, the exhibit has three giant wheels that control what happens on a giant screen that spans the whole length of the wall.
One wheel controls ‘flow’, the others, ‘scale’ and ‘warp’. Basically each wheel controls how big the objects on the screen are, or how close the camera zooms in to them.
As you’re experimenting, you’ll be serenaded by the soothing compositions played by the London Symphony Orchestra. What I love about this exhibit was the inclusion of comfy loungers you can rest on while you take in…well, Everything.
It’s a great last stop in the tour, allowing you to take a breather, while you admire the exhibit in action.
Don’t worry, we’ll be uploading a video soon about our experience too!
I felt a bit disappointed when the tour ended. All in all, I was pretty impressed with the exhibits in Virtual Realms and I really wanted more!
If you’re interested in video games, art or just need something new to do, head on down to the ArtScience Museum and experience Virtual Realms for yourself! You have until 9 Jan 2022 before it moves on for its international tour!
It’s certainly a unique experience!