April 18, 2018 – Montreal – National Film Board of Canada (NFB)
Museum of Symmetry, a virtual reality (VR) experience directed and animated by Paloma Dawkins and produced by the National Film Board of Canada (NFB), will have its world premiere at the A MAZE. 7th International Games and Playful Media Festival in Berlin, taking place from April 25 to 29. The work has also been selected to screen at the Annecy International Animation Film Festival, the world’s largest animation event, running from June 11 to 16. The VR@ANNECY section features 11 virtual reality experiences chosen from among 75 original works from 18 countries. Developed by Casa Rara Studio, Museum of Symmetry lasts 20 minutes and runs on the HTC Vive VR headset. A room-scale VR metaphor for life, the project takes the player through landscapes of earth, fire, wind and water, where vivacious 2D characters live in a 3D playground. Museum of Symmetry disrupts conventional game storytelling to create an unexpected pleasure-positive trip in VR.
Once the Vive headset is put on and the joystick is in hand, the game begins in a virtual museum. As the player explores the surroundings, a gentle “psst” grabs their attention. They look around to see a pair of wild but friendly eyes peering out of the dark. They’re invited to follow and leave their fear behind… A refreshing and uplifting burst of artistic expression that takes the player through earth (Gaia’s Garden), fire (The Desert of Dark), wind (Cloud Forest) and water (Metatron’s Ocean), Museum of Symmetry disrupts conventional game storytelling to create an unexpected pleasure-positive trip through nature and self. There are no time limits or dead ends, only possibilities and room for reflection. You can explore at your own pace—with some gentle nudging along the way. An absurdist mind-and-body romp through the highest clouds to the ocean deep, Museum of Symmetry offers an explosive feel-good alter-universe.
The project was first developed as a 2D desktop game, using hand-drawn animation to take the player on a playful journey inspired by patterns and symmetry in nature. As the environments and characters took shape, it became increasingly apparent that, to have a cathartic experience, the player must embody the simulated environments. The NFB teamed up with then-budding VR upstart Casa Rara, a studio with expertise in AAA and empathy games and a desire to branch out into more unusual immersive experiences. The core concept was adapted for HTC Vive, which allowed the player to walk, hold and explore at their own pace. Immediately, Paloma’s intuitive artistic language clicked with the form. Unnecessary game mechanics were trashed and the story was unburdened from typical narrative tropes.
Paloma Dawkins: Co-writer, Director, Animator
Ashley Obscura: Co-writer
Caila Thompson-Hannant: Composer
Casa Rara Studio: Developer
Maral Mohammadian: Producer, NFB
Michael Fukushima: Executive Producer, NFB
About Paloma Dawkins
Montreal-based Paloma Dawkins is a cartoonist and self-taught animator turned virtual-reality and video-game artist. Known for her fantastical landscapes inhabited by strange and lovable characters, Paloma strives to create games that are surreal and beautiful. Her past work includes the technicolour rainbow graphic novel Summerland, the minimalist and meditative rhythm game ALEA, and the psychedelic explorer game Gardenarium. She first came to work with the NFB through its Hothouse animation-apprenticeship program, which resulted in Scientifiq Piqniq, an animated adventure through the cosmic unveiling of the beautiful and strange macro/micro structures that unite us with the Universe.
About the NFB
The National Film Board of Canada (NFB) is one of the world’s leading digital content hubs, creating groundbreaking interactive documentaries and animation, mobile content, installations and participatory experiences. NFB interactive productions and digital platforms have won 100 awards, including 17 Webbys. To access acclaimed NFB content, visit NFB.ca or download its apps for mobile devices.
Electronic Press Kit | Images, trailers, synopsis: Museum of Symmetry
Annecy International Animation Film Festival