Friday, September 12, 2008

Ben X: Augmented Reality in Reality Fiction

I will be giving a short presentation at an international workshop that is being held at Umeå university soon. The workshop is on Creative Spaces and I will be talking about augmented reality, that is shared virtual and actual space in projects we have done in HUMlab in the last few years. I began yesterday looking around for materials to present in relation to augmented space, the work of Sheldon Brown and Mary Flanagan comes to mind as well as the ARG scene, I will show some pieces by Jane Mcgonigal. Then this morning on the radio came a review for a Belgian film from 2007 that premiers in Sweden today, Ben X:

Ben X is a 2007 Belgian film about an autistic boy (played by Greg Timmermans) who retreats into the fantasy world of the MMORPG ArchLord to escape bullying. The film's title is a reference to the leet version of the Dutch phrase "(ik) ben niks", meaning "(I) am nothing".

The film won three awards at the 31st Montreal World Film Festival: the Grand Prix des Amériques, the Prix du Public for the most popular film, and the Ecumenical Jury Prize for its exploration of ethical and social values. It is based on the novel "Nothing is all he said" [1] by Nic Balthazar, who also directed the film. The novel was inspired by the true story of an autistic boy who committed suicide because of bullying.

This film is mainly seen through Ben's (Greg Timmermans) point of view, especially with the frequent use of Ben's voiceover for narrating the story. It also uses flashbacks and sequences from Archlord (as an intercut), to parallel his real life with the sequences. Ben is a teenage boy who is being bullied at school very often. To escape his harsh reality of being bullied, he turns to his virtual world by playing a online game called Archlord. In his virtual world, he is more confident and brave. Moreover, he collaborates his adventures with another online user named Scarlite. (Wikipedia)

Watching the trailer I get the impression that the use of scenes from the MMORPG work in a near dream-sequence like technique. However, it is an attempt to capture an augmented sense of reality.

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