And digital creatives need to be ready.
Atari's announcement that they'll be launching video game-themed hotels raised a lot of eyebrows this week, with the American games and consumer electronics brand planning no less than eight Atari Hotels around the US.
While the hotels will already be of creative interest thanks to the giant-sized version of Atari's classic logo branding each building, inside one will find fully immersive VR and AR experiences, alongside state-of-the-art venues to accommodate esports events.
The aim then is to go beyond the 'themed cafe' feel implied by the name – arcade machines in every lobby, Pong-themed sports courts – and more into the theme park realm.
Atari's big move comes in the same year as the launch of Super Nintendo World in Japan, demonstrating not only that bringing video games to life will define the decade, but that immersion will be a key creative trend of the 2020s. But what does that mean for designers and artists around the world?
There are rumours that the forthcoming Nintendo World is making use of AR, with augmented viewer binoculars placed around the park, and special goggles in the works for anyone want to taking on a real-life Mario Kart.
Digital immersion's rise is guaranteed, then, and artists would do well in sharpening up their skills in painting, 3D modelling and sculpting in VR (handy guide here.) But immersion can be more than just slapping on a headset, and we can look closer to home for another sign of what's to come in customer experience.
The Disney-fication of Secret Cinema
Last decade's fondness for all things pop up and 'exclusive' arguably came borne from London's Secret Cinema (SC), which has been placing punters into the worlds of genre films such as Blade Runner and Star Wars since 2007.
Being closer to theatre than film, the Secret Cinema experience would be nothing without its excellent stage design, adapting fake signs and real type and logos from the big screen, along with the more digital use of projections and screen animations like in 2012's spacey Prometheus set.
SC shows are notorious for their intricate and lengthy production schedules, making them an annual event as opposed to something more regular. That looks all set to change though following Secret Cinema's recent multi-title Disney deal to bring their ever-expanding roster of properties to life.
Beginning from this year, SC will be working with The Walt Disney Studios’ StudioLAB to bring immersive cinematic House of Mouse experiences to the US, without forgetting London – where the first event of this partnership is due to take place – and with an eye towards future global expansion.
This semi-franchisement of SC opens up a lot of doors for digital artists and designers. Visitors may expect to get up and close with Baby Yoda around the second season premiere of The Mandalorian, for example, extremely likely considering the Secret Cinema expansion into TV with its current Stranger Things experience.
Intriguingly, that experience has done away with the signature finale of a big screen showing to the Secret experience, ending instead with a stage 'adaptation' of highlights from the show. This novel solution nicely fits TV storytelling into brand and consumer expectations, and makes good use of trippy projections (saying no more because of spoilers.) On a Disney budget, it may be a safe bet to expect projections of an augmented sort in future, such is the way being paved by Atari and Nintendo.
An expanded universe of storytelling, adventurous ways to tell those stories, and a proliferation of characters and augmentation offers limitless opportunity for creatives. You may not work in games or TV now, but expect to help bring characters from both fields to life in near future – whether through classic means or virtual.
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