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Brief Published: 17 Sep 2020

HBO’s Lovecraft Country Social VR Events

HBO is promoting its new show Lovecraft Country – which explores horror tropes and Black experiences in 1950s America – with a companion series of social virtual reality (VR) experiences, created in collaboration with British production and experience studio The Mill.

The explorable environments of Lovecraft Country: Sanctum host theatre performances inspired by the work of US writer James Baldwin, as well as escape rooms and live concerts. There are also art installations by Ghanaian artist David Alabo, Pittsburgh's Devan Shimoyama, and Toronto-based afrofuturism artist Adeyemi Adegbesan. While visitors take in the virtual vibes, they can interact with and talk to each other.

For viewers without access to VR headsets, HBO hosts livestreams with influencers serving as guides and avatars. Audiences can participate in the event in real time by solving riddles and triggering in-world effects that "directly impact the experience." The first event took place on September 3, with the next sessions scheduled for September 24 and October 19 at 10pm ET.

As social distancing continues to limit in-person gatherings, virtual events are a way to immerse consumers in brands and their stories. More than a quarter of marketers don't expect in-person event attendance to return to pre-pandemic levels, and more than half will plan for virtual components after the outbreak (614 Group, 2020).

Video games like Fortnite and Animal Crossing are already enhancing their offer of online spaces for unstructured social time with cultural experiences and brand activations (see Fortnite's Metaverse Becomes a Cultural Hub).

For more on Lovecraft Country redressing horror's cultural narratives and to read about Facebook's work on the next stage of social media through its VR metaverse Horizon, check out Pop Culture Pulse: Navigating Alternate Realities.