UK broadcaster Channel 4 has begun airing a psychological drama that features virtual reality (VR) as a central part of its storytelling. A teenager seeks escape in the VR world of Azana, but finds sinister things hidden among the bright virtual realm.
Drama Kiss Me First will be available to the rest of the world on Netflix, and is the creation of Skins writer Bryan Elsley. The series is based on a novel by Lottie Moggach, but transforms the setting from chatrooms to a VR community.
Teenager Leila is struggling in a hostile world, trying to fend for herself after the death of her mother. Seeking solace in the online VR world of Azana, she stumbles on the apparently idyllic community known as ‘Red Pill’ but finds there are dark undercurrents as Red Pill is gradually exposed as something very much like a cult.
“The book is a lovely little closely-argued paranoid thriller… my adaptation is more wide-ranging and discursive, with explosions, basically,” Elsley explains. He speaks of the relationship between Leila and another character, known as Mania in the VR world, “One’s very innocent and one wishes she could be innocent again, and there’s a kind of chemistry between them, a friendship which ultimately subverts the conspiracy between them.”
Working on the animation for the series is accomplished animator Kan Muftic of Axis Animation, who has worked on a variety of projects from the Transformers movies to the Batman Arkham series of videogames. Muftic says he aimed to create something that would be possible in modern VR, as well as create a world that seemed truly seductive. “VR isn’t just a new gadget,” Muftic says,” it’s a whole new medium.”
Muftic and Elsley say they are proud of how the ‘stylised realism’ depicted in Kiss Me First has turned out, striking a balance between producing something possible with today’s technology whist avoiding the uncanny valley effect.
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