Sansar: comedy in VR

Image courtesy of Linden Lab

Update, January 31st: the next Comedy Gladitors line-up has now been confirmed as Steven Hofstetter (host), with Josh Wolf, Jamie Kennedy, Zainab Johnson, and Greg Fitzsimmons, as noted below. The event will take place on Monday, February 11th, 2019, commencing at 17:00 PST  (03:00 GMT, Tuesday, February 12th, 2019). Tickets are available for the “early bird” rate of US $4.99 through until Wednesday, February 6th, 2019, thereafter most likely US $9.99 in keeping with the first Gladiators event.

Sansar has recently hosted two comedy events – in fact the first two in a pair of series. The first, Comedy Gladiators, took place in December 2018, and featured Steven Hofstetter together with Ben Gleib, Maz Jobrani, Alonzo Bodden, and Mary Lynn Rajskub. I wasn’t able to attend the event given the US / UK time difference, but did provide some coverage of the event ahead of time.

Four more events in the series are currently planned, all specifically suited to US audiences, set to by held on the following Mondays at 17:00 PST:

  • February 11th, 2019.
  • February 25th, 2019.
  • March 11th, 2019.
  • March 25th, 2019.
Steven Hofstetter (l) and the cast of the first Comedy Gladiators show: Mary Lynn Rajskub, Ben Gleib, Maz Jobrani and Alonzo Bodden

The upcoming shows will include Josh Wolf, Jamie Kennedy, Zainab Johnson, and Greg Fitzsimmons.

The second series of events launched on January 12th, in collaboration with the San Francisco Comedy Festival. This featured comedians David Cross (Mr. Show and Arrested Development fame) and Amy Schumer (MADTv, Insatiable, Shameless), together with openers Irene Tu and Chad Opitz). A further Sketchfest event will take place on Saturday, January 26th, featuring Michael Ian Black and Andy Kindler, supported by Emily Catalano.

All of the events are offered as ticketed activities – attendees pay via the Sansar Store in order to have access to an instance of an event. Starting with the January 26th event, Sansar users on Steam will also be able to pay for tickets via their Steam wallet. But what are these events actually like?

I cannot actually tell you first-hand, as I’ve yet to make one (as noted the Comedy Gladiator event was far too late for me, while 9:00pm UK time on a Saturday evening generally means I’m out-and-about in the physical world. However, Steven Hofstetter recently issues an extract the first Comedy Gladiators event, which helps to illustrate things.

This event saw a far amount of publicity ahead of it, with the Lab issuing a press release about the series launch, which was picked-up by a number of outlets. Steven Hofstetter also promoted it through his YouTube channel (although the promo video has since been removed, given the event has taken place).

From this clip, I got the impression the participants had at least had some experience of using VR ahead of the show, even if certain aspects of their avatar’s reactions to their own movements caught them by surprise.

At the time I wrote about the first of the SF Sketchfest event, I noted that:

Compared to the Comedy Gladiators event hosted in Sansar on December 10th, 2018 (read more here), the SF Sketchfest is receiving fairly low-key and what seems to be very short-notice advertising through social media.

The first SF Sketchfest event advertised David Cross and Amy Schumer, Irene Tu and Chad Opitz

As I couldn’t help but feel the event appeared to be somehow rushed – not that I had any evidence for feeling that way; it was just a gut feeling. However, reader Susan Wilson – who had been looking forward to the Comedy Gladiators event in December 2018, appeared to confirm this nagging doubt I had about the SF Sketchfest, when writing about the event:

Well, that was a waste of money. I heard the first comedy show in Sansar was great so I was looking forward to it but this was awful. Two famous people bumbling around a room, not even telling jokes. The openers were honestly better, at least they stood on the stage and did comedy. I was hoping for a comedy club experience in VR. This was more like watching “comedians” experience VR and not be very funny about it at all. It was nice to finally be able to sit down in Sansar though!

And I have to confess, a video of the session Baz DeSantis pointed me towards last week does tend to back this assessment up. Focusing on David Cross and Arden Myrin (who was not listed in the original line-up) while on stage (or rather, with the audience), it is fair to say that what is shown is less stand-up comedy and more a exploration of VR by a couple of people who have never previously tried it.

However, the flip side to this is that, while the session may not have been the kind of stand-up comedy presentation one might expect, there was also something of a level of interaction within it that one might not expect from a physical world venue of this kind; the hosts / focus of the show moving freely among the audience, chatting with them, exchanging hugs, etc.

The show also took an interesting left-turn a little over half-way through the recording, becoming something of a Q&A session. On the one hand this allowed a degree of insight into the comedians: why they become involved in comedy, but on the other, as it started it did feel forced and almost like a fall-back option should the session didn’t go in an intended direction.

Would I have come away from the event feeling happy? I’m not really sure; as a “stand up comedy event” the SF Sketchfest session to me falls very wide of the mark, and I’d like agree with Susan Wilson’s assessment. But as an opportunity to meet and chat with a couple of comedians in an informal, “unplanned” situation, it is an interesting experiment and I did find the latter half of the video somewhat engaging (I confess to previously being utterly unaware of either David Cross or Arden Myrin, so have no idea of their comedy styles).

But that said, if these kind of event are to succeed in drawing an audience, the SF Sketchfest does suggest that Linden Lab perhaps need to give more thought either into how the events are presented, or in preparing the participants in advance for what they are getting into if this type of event and Sansar are to be seen as a platform for stand-up comedy that can reach a very different audience.

I’ll leave you with the video of the Sketchfest event of January 11th (do note the language can be a little raw). Should any of you attend the January 26th event, I’d be interested in reading your feedback in the comments.

Advertisements

2 thoughts on “Sansar: comedy in VR

  1. While Sansar may be a breakthrough VR platform, until you get VR goggles and VR gloves in your cereal boxes, it will remain a “High Entrance Fee” platform and thus a marginal profit generator. Some Second Life installations come very close to VR while remaining AGNI capable – perhaps some research along those lines could help S.L. move ahead technically. Having tried Sansar, I still prefer Second Life. It’s easier on the eyes, and much easier on the equipment.

    Like

    1. Well, headsets and haptic gloves aren’t required for Sansar (the platform actually doesn’t support haptic systems as yet); it has a perfectly adequate Desktop mode (which I use all the time I’m in Sansar & can vouch for). The PC requirements for the desktop version are around the same as required for Second Life if you want to run it with all the bells and whistles – ALM, AO, shadows, etc.), decently enabled.

      The bigger issue for me is that Sansar is trying to make a mark for itself / gain an audience of users when many of the capabilities it needs to really engage people (unless it is simply to become talking heads in pretty backgrounds) aren’t yet available. The Steam launch typifies this: go for an audience of “gamer-consumers” but without all the tools in place to build decent gaming experiences of the kind that could attract them and hold their attention.

      Like

Have any thoughts?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.