~ VR game based on a play about military interrogators in Iraq ~
“Shockwaves” is a VR game (scavenger hunt for intelligence) based on the trials and tribulations of US military interrogators in Iraq during the height of the insurgency (2006). Its original form was a full-length play inspired by Matthew Alexander’s memoir “How to Break a Terrorist: The U.S. Interrogators Who used Brains, Not Brutality to Take Down the Deadliest Man in Iraq.” Powell did a reading of the play with Victor Verhaeghe (Boardwalk Empire) playing the lead interrogator (“gator”), and then transformed the play into an immersive experience.
The Shockwaves demo was presented at the VR Jubilee at the Time-Life Center in January 2017, and received an enthusiastic response. The game will be shipped in June – July 2017.
“The challenge of Shockwaves VR is to turn a traditional linear narrative into an interactive nonlinear format, and one that capitalizes on presence in VR.
Catharsis doesn’t happen in VR in the same way that a viewer experiences in theatre or film. It doesn’t require reversals, rising action or a climax. Three-act structure isn’t necessary or even desirable. In Shockwaves, catharsis results from an accumulation of small actions, exploration of different scenes and even scene transitions. Instead of a lightning strike of understanding, the user may undergo the slow burn of realization…that is, Iraq’s nuclear sites were looted, radioactive materials flooded the black market, and the threat of a dirty bomb is real.” ~ J Dakota Powell
TEN SCENES, TEN LEVELS, TEN ENVIRONMENTS
(click on image for full-screen)
Scene 1: Inciting Incident. A dirty bomb has gone off in a urban hub; the subways have been blocked off. Is this reality or a nightmare? The user can prevent this tragedy by going back to Iraq. In this scene, the user learns how to use the controllers – point, pick up objects and move.
Scene 2: Command & Control Center. The user sets forth on his/her mission: find the date of the dirty bomb attack, the target and the identity of the dirty bomber. By collecting objects (falcon coin, Arabic perfume bottle, Arabian sword, isotope container, etc.) and intelligence, the user will unlock scenes (levels) in a progressive manner.
Scene 3: Abu Bakr’s Cell. Abu Bakr, an Iraqi physicist, was seized in a farmhouse raid by Special Forces. Two suicide bombers were killed in the raid, but one got away with stolen radioactive isotopes. The user must find & store the falcon coin and Quran to unlock the next scene, which is Abu Bakr’s dream.
Scene 4: Abu Bakr’s Dream. Enter a dream room in the Umm al-Qura mosque. Growing inside is the Zaqqum tree sprouting devilish heads. By putting the falcon coin in a skull head, the user sees the skulls and can blow them up. Inside one skull is a special skeleton key. Once the user stores the key, he/she can advance to the next level.
Scene 5: Jeremy Taber’s Bunk. Rummage through the bunk of US Air Force interrogator on loan to the Army. Jeremy believes that the Achilles heel of Arabs is love of family, and that is the approach he uses in interrogations. The user must find the intel in Jeremy’s files that identifies the missing bomber as well as the safehouse where he is hiding.
Scene 6: Jeremy’s Dream. Prowl around a dreamlike nuclear plant – think Tuwaitha after the invasion – where containers of radioactive isotopes are hidden. Inside are hallucinogenic orbs, centrifuge, vault…and furry camel spiders. Find the container to identify the isotope that was stolen for the dirty bomb.
Scene 7: Ingrid Blume’s Bunk. An Army interrogator who takes a “know-all dossier” approach in interrogations, Ingrid is intent on advancing to covert ops for the Agency. Obsessed with Al-Qaeda organizational structure, she focuses on who does what. Among her files is the courier of the AQ mastermind. This courier sells perfumes in the middle of Baghdad.
Scene 8: Ingrid’s Dream. In this toxic wasteland, the courier’s perfume bottles are buried in the ground. Inside those bottles are cryptic messages. The user must collect the perfumes while circling around destroyed tanks and bound mutants. Unlock the special perfume with the skeleton key to retrieve the message, a quote from Khalid Bin Walid.
Scene 9: Charlie O’Neill’s Bunk. This Texan Army interrogator may speak in slang, but he’s no slouch. His interrogation approach is always “ego down, prove your worth” to the prisoner. He’s also a numbers guy. The user must decipher the courier’s message and figure where the dirty bomb is… even if it means rooting through a cargo ship schedule.
Scene 10: Charlie’s Dream. Wake up standing on the bridge of a cargo ship with dozens of colorful cargo containers. Scattered throughout the containers are dirty bomb parts – C4, detonator, radioactive isotopes and the suitcase. Assemble the pieces… but who will deliver the bomb and where? Look at the suitcase, the clue is there.
Shockwaves Navigation: The scene map shoots out of the left controller with the press of the menu button. When the user is ready to advance to the next level or return to an unlocked level, he/she can access or hide the scene map at will. In this game, the user may need to loop back to past scenes in order to retrieve missed intelligence.
Shockwaves Inventory: An inventory map/bank shoots out of the right controller similar to the navigation map. However, objects can be stored in and retrieved from the inventory map. The middle button stores intelligence (intel) notes, which appear on index cards. Once the intel jigaw comes together, the user completes his/her mission.