Situation Rooms Luminato

What it's like to play a real life video game in Toronto

I'm standing in front of a bright yellow door marked with the number 11. It's one of many such portals scattered outside of a collection of shipping containers inside the Hearn Generating Station.

I slide on over-the-ear headphones and hold an iPad in front of my face. The screen lights up and instructs me to open the door. I step inside and become Emmanuel Thaunay, a French security systems developer. I'm part of the Situation Rooms, an interactive video-game-like multimedia performance on now as part of the Luminato Festival.

Created by the Berlin-based group Rimini Protokoll and inspired by the famous White House Situation Room photo, Situation Rooms explores the global arms trade via 20 different individuals who've all been affected by it in some way.

Situation Rooms Toronto

Like immersive, site-specific productions such as Sleep No More or the Hogtown Experience, audience members become part of the production by walking through and interacting with the space.

While I'm Thaunay, I help someone into a bullet-proof trench coat. As I make my way through a corridor, I pass a man carrying a machine gun. Later, I lie down on an operating table as another participant examines me and places a yellow sticker on my right hand. Through our iPads, we all become part of the story and act out various scenes.

Situation Rooms Toronto

This takes some getting used to. You can't roam freely; instead, you need to stay on a prescribed path or you'll mess up the entire experience for the other 19 people participating - Situation Rooms needs exactly 20 people to run. The tracks, or iPad movies, are perfectly intertwined. It's magical when it works, but anxiety-provoking when it doesn't.

I'm embarrassed to admit it, but I get lost at one point and needed to leave the rooms in order to find my way back. But once I do, I slide into a rhythm and make the most out of my time in the Situation Rooms.

Situation Rooms is sold out, but if you're at the Hearn, you may be able to get in if ticket holders don't show up.

Photos via the Luminato Festival.


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