It's 2097. Virtual reality has proved to be as much as a soul-sucking grind as the non-virtual one—that is, until disaster strikes in the form of Banshee Bikers terrorizing the digital version of Amsterdam that you call home. Now, in order to survive, you're forced to pedal through the city's cycling lanes, collecting mystical carrots in order to ward off denizens of a pink and purple apocalypse. This is the world of Bitmap Banshees, a "techno-glitter VR thriller game" produced by Wieden+Kennedy Amsterdam's "Department of New Realities" just in time to deliver futuristic Halloween chills.
The game launched at W+K Amsterdam’s public gallery space surrounded by a series of acidic candy-colored prints. One set details the different kinds of banshees infesting its vaporwave-possessed roads. The centerpiece of the show is a custom exercise bike modded with an actual bike frame, wires, and sensors that Oculus players use navigate the psychedelic landscape. “The Bitmap Banshees are digital avatars wreaking havoc inside this warped future," explain creators Geoffrey Lillemon and Anita Fontaine. "‘They’—the Banshees—forced us to make this game as a teaser of what's to come, as we enter a new hyper-reality filled with avatars capable of crisscrossing dimensions.”
These clever narrative gymnastics reveal Bitmap Banshees for what it really is: On the surface it's a festive take on a Mad Max future where the road is ruled by evil bikers. Below the surface, though, it quietly questions the VR medium. Even as we use technology to try to escape our world, we can't escape the problems of humanity. The scariest supernatural horror is all about amplifying the dark side of humanity, from brutal wolf men to seductive vampires. These banshees go bump in the night along the "road to tomorrow" promised by VR evangelists.
Lillemon and Fontaine aren't promising a solution to the future, but simply having spooky fun with it. Face your fears by visiting W+K Amsterdam’s gallery space through the end of the year and trying the game in person. Get a taste of the bone-chilling banshees in the trailer below.