Dark Patterns

2017 — Current Abuse, Data, Politics, Privacy

Dark Patterns is a web VR interactive story that explores the future of a surveillance state and IOT devices through the perspective of the main character, Alice, when her friend is arrested at protest. The game is inspired by our two respective, political histories- Mani’s growing up in Tehran and seeing firsthand the Green Revolution and my own background and interest in info-sec. We made this game as a meditation on what the possibilities of covert surveillance in tech products could be, especially under an authoritarian Trump presidency in the United States, where we both currently reside. The game also imagines what the feature of IOT devices and UX will look like, what internet regulation looks like to a user, and what the future of protest can be. 

Collaborator: Mani Nilchiani, developer.

Tools used: Photogrpahy, aframe, THREE.js, React, Node.js, WebSockets, Raspberry Pi, USB Game Controller, Smart Phone, Google Cardboard.

Launch game site.

Art Direction and Concept Art

A big issue we faced was how to create the sense of a multi-dimensional and interactive space using still images. Still images can feel static as a background in a VR setting, per example using 360 images, but we wanted our images to feel immersive and moving. We looked to David Hockney for inspiration. A major component is that we wanted our game to feel ‘real’ and using real images reinforced that reality. Within the game space, we started to imagine how that could be possible. What led to us creating was the concept of every image and asset being a layer, and those layers being ‘spaced’ out on top of one another, so they are not flat but separate, floating layers. Additionally, our images would be layered in a more hexagonal format, to give the feeling of a more 3D stylized space using only 2-D assets. 

From there, we started to imagine the ways in which IOT UI would interact with users. Would the future be regulated? Under an authoritarian regime, we imagined yes. That regulation would be apparent to users, from seeing that various ‘laws’ (that look like cookies) are pinging and watching your internet activity. What would new UI look like, especially in the dystopian future? What is the future of dystopian product design? We imagined that every wall is now an interactive surface and every device is linked and synced. Thus, wherever you go, your data follows you. 

From our world premiere at Studio for Creative Inquiry and Carnegie Mellon’s Art&&Code Weird Reality Conference