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Szenen aus dem interaktiven Theaterstück "Vienna All Tomorrows"

Reinhold Bidner

Vienna All Tomorrows – A New Way to Play… on Stage

An experimental new project from Vienna’s Volkstheater explores the relationship between gaming, theatre, and… erm… governing.

By Tom Middler

Being an active member of one of Vienna’s theatres, and also part of FM4’s own Game Culture-department, it was no surprise that I was the one sent out to a test-run of “Vienna All Tomorrows”, to see what this theatre-game hybrid had to offer fans of both forms of entertainment.

“One of the biggest challenges of making a game inside a theatre is to reach the right audience. Just because you make a game in a theatre, it doesn’t mean that the people that you want will magically appear”. Chatting with concept designer and project leader (and video game developer, to boot) Georg Hobmeier, it’s clear from the start that he sees the project as an experience designed to entice board gamers, video gamers and tech fans into a more theatrical environment, and perhaps stretch the Volkstheater’s normal demographic at the same time.

Can the project entice gamers to theatres?

A noble aim indeed, to introduce more people to the theatre and give them something new, and social, to play and experience. But can this project pull it off?

Szenen aus dem interaktiven Theaterstück "Vienna All Tomorrows"

Reinhold Bidner

By blending the audio visual artistry of the Volkstheater team with some smart augmented reality technology, adding in some video-based acting, and a dash of costume fun for good measure, the setting at Volx Margareten is certainly an impressive, and immersive one to walk into. I felt more like I was in a TV gameshow than a theatre piece, and that’s definitely a good thing!

“Gamers have a bit of a bad reputation that they are kind of reclusive, sitting in front of screens, but that’s not true” says Georg. “All social forms of play, be they digital or analogue, or even room-based, have huge and growing audiences… and I hope that this can inject a little bit of life into a medium which struggles with aging audiences”.

Real time decisions for rival factions

Georg and the Volx Margareten team will be calling on the social side of gamers this month then, as „Vienna All Tomorrows“ puts the 9 players of each 60 minute game into 3 rival factions, and their debating and interacting skills should be tested as they navigate their way through the social issues of post-Öxit Vienna, watching dynamic news broadcasts and citizen satisfaction scores which update in real-time as decisions are made.

Szenen aus dem interaktiven Theaterstück "Vienna All Tomorrows"

Reinhold Bidner

The range of issues is at times far-fetched, but remains grounded in reality, and is “totally something which should spark people’s imagination… During the process we have been overtaken by reality quite often… It’s scarier than we imagined it in 2033 Vienna!”

An experience that increases awareness of social issues, as well as confronting people with differing opinions or ambitions, is something which may not be expected for All Tomorrows’ target audience, but then again, that’s precisely the point, and it’s bound to be a good thing for those more used to arguing in YouTube comments than actually talking out a decision.

Totally different game-experiences for different groups

While judgment calls are made in the heat of the moment, the nature of the project means that your role isn’t quite as clearly defined as it can be with more traditional games. Like any good multiplayer game, though, the experience is shaped by those who are involved in it with you. A few fiery or strong-willed characters in the room could leave some players with a totally different game to the following group on any given day.

Szenen aus dem interaktiven Theaterstück "Vienna All Tomorrows"

Reinhold Bidner

In a city with a deep history of culture consumers, yet a public who still stick rigidly to the comfort of what they already know and like, a new, experimental and unpredictable experience like „Vienna All Tomorrows“ is unlikely to wildly succeed on each and every run through, but in theatre, as with gaming, you don’t progress far without taking a few risks along the way, and Volkstheater’s willingness to expand its horizons is highly commendable.

Who knows, by 2033 this type of installation/simulation might be a more common theatre experience for a new generation of culture consumers and social players.

If you want to gather a few friends to try your hand at gaming and governing Vienna, you’ll find „Vienna All Tomorrows“ 4 times daily at Volx Margareten, 1050 Wien between the 25th and 30th of May 2018.

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