MINE (March 2020)

Updated: Apr 28


"I'd say we made a fun and meaningful connection with a small group of players who joined our server. It was especially interesting after we did the show to have people come into the server. Then they had the opportunity to see things that Hok + Maiko + the whole Yamamoto clan had built. " - Conor Wylie




This show was ideal for extending into the online world, as it already used technology designed for interaction and its audience base is well versed in participatory experiences by virtue of being gamers.  The online game Minecraft (Java Edition) was the technical foundation of the live performance and has a long history of player customization, allowing us to use the same visual and interaction language while creating novel experiences. Since the show already used OBS (Open Broadcasting Software) for its internal video control, adapting the performance to a livestream was easy to accomplish.  3 performances of MINE were live streamed when precautions due to Covid-19 prevented audiences from attending the live performance. This meant that audiences missed the opportunity to experience some of the layers of digital and physical blending. But the live streams were viewed by over 700 people, which was greater than the physical capacity of the venue for the same number of performances.  Following these live streams, there was a large increase in new players on the Minecraft server, where audience members got to meet each other and the MINE artists.



Our experience consciously mixed many interconnected elements:


Minecraft Java Edition:


  • Minecraft has 2 non-compatible versions [Java (mac, pc, linux) vs Bedrock(game consoles, mobile, and Windows10]. Unavoidably, this made the experience inaccessible to a large number of people who would otherwise be a target audience. Having to choose 1 or the other, we chose Java, as that is the version the live version of MINE uses, and we could import the pre-existing world.

  • The abundance of online tutorials for Minecraft Java edition was ideal for finding tools to fulfil our creative vision

  • Adding the voiceover elements required some editing of JSON (JavaScript Object Notation) files, so some familiarity with coding was helpful



Cultch Server


  • One player on the virtual Cultch Minecraft server took inspiration from Artist Conor Wylie’s storytelling, and created his own treasure hunt story journeys in the game, 12 in all, that led players to excerpts of modern and classic literature and their own personal writings. With another player, we shared the techniques of the customized voiceover trigger method we invented for in-game storytelling, allowing them to take our technique into their future creations.  

  • Creating an ongoing experience like the server requires an ongoing commitment to participate and moderate, that we didn’t anticipate.  Participant moderation and artist led classes are being considered as options to keep the server active.  

  • The recreation of The Cultch Theatre within Minecraft allowed those unable to physically attend The Cultch to be present in the virtual version of the building.



Youtube


  • Youtube videos featuring Minecraft are already a popular genre, but Conor’s storytelling format videos stand out from the typical “watch me play” or “how to” videos. Tapping into the familiar, but taking the artistic content to a different sphere worked well to increase visibility.

  • Youtube videos created a pathway for audience members to see additional development of the show’s character Bambi before or after seeing the show

  • Using targeted (Minecraft, Vancouver area) ads on youtube was effective in attracting non-theatre goers to our experience. These ads showed new viewers a short story video and invited them to the server address. We heard from a number of players that this is how they arrived at our virtual version of The Cultch

  • All videos created for MINE were closed captioned for the deaf and hard-of-hearing.  Significant effort was made to include spatialized subtitles in the stories told via Minecraft, but the team was not able to overcome the technical hurdles.



Collaboration tools


  • Using a game to create an experience meshed well with using chat/voice chat platform Discord, popular with gamers.  There were discord servers for support for each plugin we used, and it was even possible to connect with in-game minecraft chat without actually having the game open, handy for keeping an eye on activity via smartphone or without launching the game itself while doing other work.  We used the Discord voice chat for virtual meetings during creation.

Our experience consciously mixed many interconnected elements:

Youtube videos showing MINE’s character Bambi playing themself as an actor from the show, arriving in Vancouver and backstage before the show.


A Creative Mode Minecraft world, meaning players were able to build their own creations in the world on a persistent server, creating an ongoing community where the artists from MINE and the Cultch team collaborated and interacted with members of the public in-game. This world was based on the enormous Vancouver-ish city created since 2011 by Finnish Minecrafter Mattufin, freely shared with the public to use.  Players began their journey in the game at a 1:1 scale recreation of The Cultch theatre.


Voiceover story narratives collectively called Memory Lane, accessed by a “secret entrance” in the virtual Cultch lobby:


  • 2 of the 3 Memory Lane stories focussed on Conor Wylie’s personal history sharing how being a gamer impacted some of his early life experiences, and used visual clues to guide players to the next section of the narrative story.  Players were free to go at their own pace, blending personal control with a guided experience

  • The third Memory Lane experience was centered around the show MINE, taking players to locations in the Minecraft world that served as performance locations during the show.  Here, players were more physically constrained by invisible barrier blocks.  They were still able to choose the focus of their view while listening to the voice over, similar to an audience member’s experience during a live performance.  At the final stop, they were urged to fly through the world, build, and explore, as any theatre creator hopes all their audiences will take the thoughts and feelings from the performance out into the real world with them.


A Treasure hunt that mixed 3 elements: 


  • Real world Minecraft themed decor, QR codes and combination locked treasure chest with prizes

  • In game clues to where to find the QR codes in real life

  • Youtube videos, some released via social media, others unlocked by the QR codes during the treasure hunt


Minecraft gaming setups in the lobby of the theatre, where patrons who had never played the game could try it, to enhance their appreciation of the show.


3 performances of MINE were live streamed when precautions due to Covid-19 prevented audiences from attending the live performance.