[Jess is posting this on behalf of Allison, who wrote it!]
Hello everyone, Allison here!
I’m going to begin with some updates, because it’s been a while. This summer, Soft Chaos was busier than it's ever been– with all three of us working well beyond our capacity. This led to burnout and some needed time off and away to recover. The work we did was challenging but rewarding. It helped us reach an important milestone: the cooperative has been able to pay out a (small) but stable salary relatively consistently for the first time since founding. We’ve learned a lot of lessons about how we can run the cooperative from a workload and a financial perspective.
Maybe we’ll share some blogs about that as we go but that’s not what I’m here to tell you about. I’m here to tell you about our newest creative project! Each member of Soft Chaos will be taking a turn telling you about this project, and what excites them the most. I get to go first and the part I’m most excited about starts with an old idea from years ago and a trip to LA…
We had been working on a Soft Chaos Original (SCO) for a while now: a multiplayer time travel escape room about change and nostalgia. This project had ended up falling into a bit of a rut, but we hadn’t figured out what to do about it quite yet. This was where we were when we took our recovery break from the cooperative. At the end of that break, I was lucky enough to see The Nest, an immersive narrative experience that played with some of the affordances of escape rooms. Soft Chaos had actually proposed something like this a year or two ago, called “In My Room”-- a story about discovering and learning to celebrate queerness. We had gotten a small grant to develop it, but weren’t able to accept.
I really am proud of the concept work that we did, and the story we intended to share. We never really figured out the time or place to make this escape room happen but the idea had always stuck with me. There was something there, hidden in the affordances of escape rooms, that I knew could be special. The Nest really rekindled that excitement. I won’t say too much about it (and if you are ever in LA you need to witness The Nest for yourself) but experiencing someone achieve what I knew was possible (an extremely emotionally resonant story within an escape-room-ish space) brought back my passion for doing something similar. And I brought that passion to Soft Chaos upon my return.
What happened next is exemplary of what Soft Chaos excels at: taking the things that we are excited about as individuals and combining them into a project we are all passionate about as a group. I wanted to do this large-scale physical escape room-y installation. Jess wanted something small and achievable that would start the ball rolling after our break and stalling on the last project. Squinky wanted to work in the digital space this time, as almost all of our SCOs up to this point have been non digital.
Maybe it seems like this would be a contradiction: a digital small achievable game that was also a giant non-digital installation? But together we came to the concept of the physical escape room: audience members would be exploring an old abandoned magical realism arcade, full of small video games that help tell the story we want. In video games, you get audio logs. In real life, you get video game logs!
The themes of these games, and the story we’re trying to tell is also really important and meaningful to us as queer people who exist in the world at this moment, but I think it would be best to save that for a part 2. Thank you for your support, and staying with us on this journey!