Think about you are an immersive theater collective, you have received some huge tasks on the horizon, and also you simply leased a ten,000-square-foot efficiency venue in East Williamsburg. Then, the pandemic hits. Your first intuition could also be to panic. However what in case you pivoted, utilizing your sources for one thing that appears off model—video video games.
Future Proof, based in 2017, is one among many immersive theater collectives housed in New York Metropolis whose livelihood is threatened by the infeasibility of reside performances throughout the pandemic. From one-time homicide thriller feast occasions to award-winning, decades-long items like Punchdrunk’s Sleep No Extra—a cinema noir retelling of Shakespeare’s Macbeth—immersive theater (and reside occasion programming as a complete) is in a very precarious place as we go the one 12 months mark of Broadway going darkish.
Even within the thick of social distancing protocols, the present should go on. Whereas online game growth could not seem to be the pure segue for a gaggle used to staging performances someplace in between live-action position play (LARP) and meticulous improv, Future Proof wasn’t going to again down from the problem. As an alternative, the collective put its staff of occasion planners, artists, and actors to work, studying the tenets of visible novel programming. Designing for a visible novel, it seems, is just not too totally different from designing an interactive occasion, each of that are propelled by choices-matter mechanics and deep branching paths. What began as a six-week-long mission rapidly developed right into a year-long endeavor, yielding PSweet, a visible novel and dating-sim hybrid set in a hellish model of Microsoft Workplace Suite. I discovered Future Proof and their tasks by probability when the sport launched in February 2021, scrolling by means of itch.io mindlessly in search of a healthful repair and was pleasantly stunned by the foolish, experimental, and indulgent expertise of PSweet—coming quickly to Steam.
At first, PSweet performs like what you’d count on of a self-proclaimed ROM-com. You enter the sport as a Person, plunged into Pontisuite: “a fictional working system that undoubtedly doesn’t have a horrible secret.” Alongside the way in which, you’re launched to A1, a spreadsheet cell and de-facto private assistant, harking back to everybody’s favourite Microsoft software program assistant, Clippy. (Bear in mind Clippy continuously asking in case you wanted assist? A1 is equally as persistent and barely extra unhelpful.) In PSweet, A1 helps you navigate the three most important branching paths, subverting its repute as a private assistant with its “well-intentioned” however glitchy code.
PSweet is concurrently cyberpunk-y and out of date, harking back to dialup-era noises, floppy disks, and the terrible turquoise-neon pink coloration mixture. There’s an nearly terrifying high quality to the vaporwave graphics, a reminder that the identical anxieties surrounding evil AI and the all-expansive energy of Massive Tech have and can possible live on perpetually.
The sport is pretty easy, counting on text-based dialog choices. Your main goal is to assist stage the movie premiere of the 12 months—the Common Viewing Expertise produced by LUX, a fictional movie and media mega-corporation. Alongside the way in which, you befriend swoon-worthy hand-drawn characters, every with their very own persona quirks. Whereas calling the characters “romanceable” may be a stretch, they’re memorable and really feel so human-like it’s doable to neglect they’re laptop applications in spite of everything. From PSheets to PCalendar, each program has a pre-screening accountability, and also you, the omnipotent Person, are there to assist. The primary portion of the sport appears innocuous sufficient, however the second half devolves rapidly into technological absurdity, as you desperately attempt to repair the virus-like villain you’ve by chance let free alongside the way in which.
What is really exceptional about Future Proof’s work is that the PSweet recreation is only a piece in an even bigger transmedia puzzle. All of Future Proof’s performances, media, and different works (spanning podcasts, museum excursions, and Twitter bot chains) exist in the identical universe, which orbits LUX, a company big keen to go to any lengths to persuade you to devour their merchandise—or on this case, attend their movie screening. Legacy objects, characters, and histories exist throughout their tasks, as they’re recycled and reshaped into new storylines—surrounding you with content material in a method that feels fairly actually immersive.