It was disconcerting that my son, Pirate, came to opera out of a sense of obligation, rather than because he really wanted to. I asked him one day what would make him excited about opera. He answered immediately, “If it could be as thrilling as the opera scene in the Fifth Element.” I revisited that scene on YouTube and found it amazingly exciting. At the time, my son and I had just founded SqueePlay, a video game company. For the first time, I got a Facebook account, started to play video games to research the video game market and got an iPhone so Pirate could test his games on it (he has an Android.)
What astonished me was the discovery that 1.2 billion people play video games and spend 3 billion hours a week doing so. The smartphone has become our best friend. It’s a dining companion, commuting companion, concert/theater companion etc. We’re connected to it by an invisible umbilical cord. So what does that mean when the lights dim and an anonymous voice asks those of us addicted to our phones to cut that cord, to turn off the phone, for god’s sake? What if opera embraced this phenomenon and asked the phone-addicts to hang on to their lifeline, indeed to use it to participate in what they’re seeing and hearing?
Thus, PermaDeath was born, the first interactive video game opera in which audience members download an app to participate, where chargers are provided in case your battery is low and a tutorial on how to use the app kicks off the opera.
I’m a neophyte at video games. But Pirate is not only a video game developer, he’s also the former NE Halo champion. He’s my co-librettist, giving the libretto a shot of realism through video gaming slang and choreographed fight scenes. He’s also responsible for ensuring that the look and feel of the graphics and production reflect video game reality. So let’s see whether we attract new audiences to this new kind of opera.
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