The Night Journey

Bill Viola & The USC EA Game Innovation Lab

1 June 2009

Experimental videogame

Acknowledgements: National Endowment for the Arts and The Annenberg Center at USC

The Night Journey is an experimental videogame that uses both game and video technologies to evoke in the player’s mind a sense of the archetypal journey of enlightenment through the “mechanics” of the game experience – i.e. the choices and actions of the player during the game. The game design explores a challenging question: what is the mechanic of enlightenment? How can we model such an intensely personal yet archetypal experience in a game? Visual inspiration is drawn from the prior works of Bill Viola, which provide both reference for the game world and source material for the in-game “refl ections.” Textual inspiration comes from the lives and writings of great historical fi gures including Rumi, the 13th century Islamic poet and mystic; Ryokan, the 18th century Zen Buddhist poet; St. John of the Cross, the 16th century Spanish mystic and poet; and Plotinus, the 3rd century philosopher. The game is being developed with game technologies, but attempts to stretch the boundaries of what game experiences may communicate with its unique visual design, content and mechanics. The team has created a set of custom post-processing techniques for the 3D environment that evoke the sense of “explorable video,” integrating the imagery of Bill Viola’s prior work into the game world at both a technical and creative level.