Virtual reality is increasingly becoming a form of mass entertainment. We’ve written about companies like The Void and Dreamscape Immersive that are increasingly focusing their efforts at creating communal VR experiences that aren’t just trying transport people to foreign worlds, but encourage the making of memories with others in these worlds.
That statement couldn’t have been more true for me when I tried The Void’s newest experience called Avengers: Damage Control. The VR company that Disney has heavily invested in since 2017 has now received another huge investment in the form of using one of the Company’s most coveted properties to allow for that unique form of mass memory creation comparable to something like Disneyland.
Like other The Void experiences, this one is wrapped in purposeful story. You begin your journey three years after the culminating events of “Avengers: Endgame” while visiting the Wakandan International Outreach Centre (the place that T’Challa aka Black Panther himself created at the end of Marvel Studios’ “Black Panther”). There, you meet Shuri, T’Challa’s little sister who you met in the feature film as well and who leads the research operations at the Centre and has decided to give you a tour.
Things quickly change in purpose when your tour becomes a recruitment when a global threat begins and you are asked to help, with the help of Shuri’s latest creation: a hybrid armored and armed suit combining Stark and Wakandan tech.
As the trailer for the experiences will show, you and your team of up to four people are no match against this mysterious threat (which we won’t give away here), and therefore, will require you to team up with Earth’s Mightiest Heroes – the Avengers themselves.
My memory made was created toward the end of the 20-minute experience where I became so enthralled by the moment that all I wanted to do was give up on exterminating the threat and watch the Avengers do their thing.
In fact, those memorable moments of wanting to watch fight alongside the Avengers were scattered throughout. Avengers: Damage Control is probably the most cinematic VR experience I’ve ever taken part in and that only lent help to its believability.
“From the very beginning, we wanted to use this opportunity to live out their favorite Avengers moments,” said Dave Bushore, vice president of franchise creative and marketing for Marvel Studios. “It’s fantasy fulfillment made even greater post-“Endgame.”
Together with the technical geniuses at The Void, Bushore said that it was difficult to editorialize what Marvel scenarios to put fans in, ranging from what Hulk would look like to who the villain and the main conflict would be needing to be resolved.
“We had hundreds of ideas that we needed to sift through over the year and a half of ideation that ultimately needed to be cut down to create a memorable 20-minute experience,” said Michael Koperwas, the visual director from The Void on the project. “But it feels like the right balance between fan service and fan participation.”
Some of the biggest fans participated in the making of the experience as well, including the actors who played MCU characters on the Big Screen including Letitia Wright (Shuri), Benedict Cumberbatch (Doctor Strange), Evangeline Lilly (The Wasp), Paul Rudd (Ant-Man), and Taika Waititi (Korg) – all of which you’ll see and hear during your VR journey.
While familiarity of the characters and worlds helps with the enjoyability, another aspect that adds to that are the new ways that The Void is wanting to play with your other senes.
In one such scene, you enter the Sanctum where you meet Doctor Strange. You eventually encounter stairs that lead down. I ended walking down the stairs, but felt like I wasn’t descending at all. True sorcerer magic. A few minutes later, you smell popcorn, thanks to Ant-Man (and we won’t spoil why that’s the case). And before that, you feel snow and the coldness of a raging snow storm. Oh, then you get shrunk down to the size of an ant – and feel it, too.
“There are a few tricks we’ve learned over the years,” said The Void’s experience director Ian Bowie. “It was time to share those tricks so that it would make for an entirely new experience for those who’ve shared them with us before.”
There is always a downside to making things too new, however. I learned after talking to the team post-experience. The team shared that there were things I could have done with my teammates like power each other up via “friendly fire.” That was the last thing I was thinking about when I was with the Avengers – the people I’ve seen in their movies.
When things become too “cinematic,” you run the risk of sitting back and watching the action take place just like a movie. There were a few solid moments during the experience that I just wanted to not fight back with my suit’s palm blasters to help the Avengers and instead, watch them kick butt on their own.
Further, the scale of the battles that take place in the experience was “Avengers-level”, meaning that it was non-stop and took place all around you. With that much going on, I found it difficult to follow the action, even if there was a heads-up display trying to direct my attention to things like characters if they were talking.
To that criticism, the team did admit that it was somewhat their intention to load up on content. Bushore responded, “It’s like if we introduced new toys and got to play with all the other toys you already had. When it comes down to it, it’s probably overwhelming because you have to adjust to the new.”
“New” is exactly the word to sum up Avengers: Damage Control and I can tell you that it is a new that only showcases the beautiful marrying of technology and storytelling to create moments that will live with you for a long time. Like any new experience from The Void, however, don’t let the ‘new’ scare you away from the opportunity to experience a beautifully crafted moment for the Marvel fan in you.
Tickets for the experience are now on sale on The Void’s official website with a limited time run of two weeks beginning this week.
Our thanks to The Void, ILMxLAB, and Marvel Studios for allowing us to experience Avengers: Damage Control without charge before its public debut to support this story.