As Burn Week draws near, many of us are starting to feel the insatiable FOMO one can only get from missing weeks of preparation and anticipation for an imminent and dusty arrival in Black Rock City. While nothing can replace those first minutes on playa, at this very moment there are 10 teams of dedicated Burners working tirelessly, building for us all, so anyone can come as close as possible to feeling that cacophonous playa wonder and magic starting at 12:01am PDT on Monday, August 31 until September 6.
Oh yes, the mad drive to prepare for Burn Week is alive and kicking. And you are ALL invited to dive in, to gather, play, participate and celebrate with friends old and new. We’re talking about EIGHT Recognized Universes of the Burning Man Multiverse, one official virtual Temple, and a soon-to-be-announced Build Your Own Man global Burn night.
What if Black Rock City is on your list of places you always wanted to co-create, but you haven’t made it there yet? Adventuring among the eight Universes may not be dusty, but you’re going to encounter a whole bunch of things that are pretty unique to Burning Man culture — such as irreverent theme camp events, Black Rock City DJ sets, monumental (albeit virtual) art installations, and of course random but oddly synchronous encounters with some very interesting humans.
Eight Universes can be a lot to wrap one’s head around. But remember: your garden variety Multiverse may contain a potentially infinite number of fully-fledged and infinitely expanding Universes. So by comparison, eight Recognized Universes of the Burning Man Multiverse is a modest proposal for a Multiversal explorer such as yourself.
Take a deep breath. We’re here as your guide, to help you make sense of each and every Universe before Burn Week is upon us. As a follow-up to last week’s post on how to add your magic to the Multiverse, we’re bringing you into the inner world of each and every Universe. Read on for conversations, and a short preview video from each of our intrepid Universe builders. Because this particular Multiverse is virtual, you actually do get to take a tiny bite out of every chocolate in the box. And then, if you wish you can eat them all.
You may ask — when can I dive into the Multiverse and start exploring these infinitely expanding virtual Universes? All will be open, and full of intrepid adventurers during Burn Week — starting at 12:01am PDT August 31 until September 6, 2020. All the links you’ll need will be live on Kindling’s Multiverse page.
A Million, Multiversal Stories Are Waiting to Unfold (Here are Eight of Them)
In spring 2020, shortly after we all went into lockdown to prevent the spread of COVID, SparkleVerse creators Thomas O’Duffy, Ed Cooke and Chris Adams started throwing increasingly complex online parties. These evolved into a collective, some pretty interesting software, and SparkleVerse — a 2D clickable mixed reality party map that allows people to go down infinite rabbit holes into rooms, celebrations, performances and beyond.
Thomas explains how technology can be used to tap into that Burning Man magic: “In our online parties it feels like we’ve all laughed with all our hearts, put all our energy into it, and created something that’s really quite magical. But at Burning Man, when you do that, there’s this force multiplier effect because most other people there are doing it too. And you get this kind of crescendo of awareness, of perception, in interpersonal connection, in feeling seen and seeing others, and freedom and of all that great stuff.
“So we’re looking at how to create equivalencies online. The medium is different… physical space is simply a set of tools to achieve these shared experiences. But maybe we have even more powerful tools with all the technology available now to achieve equivalence through online platforms.”
Watch Ed tell the SparkleVerse story and try to explain the mixed reality experience:
Multiverse is a richly photorealistic Black Rock City filled with 2020 Honoraria art installments, sound stages and hundreds of theme camps to explore. Faryar Ghazanfari, one of the co-creators of Multiverse, explains how their virtual world emerged, as if intentionally, from the various technologies they had developed over time.
“We looked at the spectrum of all the technologies we had built over the years and something miraculous happened. We realized that every single ingredient you would literally need to create a multiverse is a collection of everything we’ve ever built over the past four or five years. It was meant to be. As if without knowing… we were just building the elements of all of this. Because if we wanted to do what we are doing now, we would have had to spend five years building things.”
How to experience Multiverse: RSVP on the Multiverse website to gain early access. While a VR headset is the optimal way to dive into this Universe, you can also participate using your iPhone or Android smartphone.
Roam the playa and be dazzled in this Multiverse preview video:
The Bridge Experience
The Bridge Experience is an XR Universe that brings together three worlds — a water world, a green world, and a desert world — while bringing together the Black Rock City and Love Burn communities. Scarlett, Juan and Phoenix, the crew co-creating this Universe, have a long term vision: that the endless capacity of virtual worlds will enable participants to build and explore structures and art installations from current, past and future burns, indefinitely.
Juan discusses the limitless potential of their virtual Universe to keep the Burn alive: “One of the things with Burning Man is the tradition of burning structures down. Our theme is not destroying these structures, but building these worlds out to an infinite world. So now if you did miss Burning Man, you can have an experience over the years of seeing all the multiple structures that have been built out and experienced. So that’s our methodology for building a virtual world: to actually preserve these worlds and this beautiful art, and also present futuristic, next level civilizations or even ecosystems.”
How to join The Bridge Experience: Anyone can participate using any device — a smartphone, computer or VR headset.
Explore The Bridge Experience water world in this preview video:
The Infinite Playa
When COVID hit, Helix Wolfson began organizing online fundraiser parties. Before long he was immersed in content creation projects, which ultimately led to a collaboration with Elliot Jobe on a virtual Universe — The Infinite Playa. Elliot is new to Burning Man culture. He read the 10 Principles and something clicked. He was hooked.
Elliot and Helix spoke with us about their collaboration, and the impetus behind their co-creation of The Infinite Playa.
Helix explains: “I knew that Burning Man wasn’t happening and I was heartbroken by that. I knew a lot of my friends were… The grief of COVID is compounded by the fact that we also can’t go to this place that, for many of us, is the thing that makes our year, right? And we saw this opportunity to do something about that.”
Elliot unpacks his commitment to the project: “It felt like, every day I’d get up and that was the grand opportunity to reach people in a very fun and compelling way, but also with a group, and with an overall ethos towards the actual well-being of the participants… What can we do to help people feel more alive, people feel more connected, in a world where we’re actually more connected than we’ve ever been, yet somehow feel totally alienated from each other?”
How to experience The Infinite Playa: Anyone can participate using a browser on a desktop or mobile device, or via VR headset.
Take yourself on an adventure on the Infinite Playa in this preview video:
BRCvr is the brainchild of Athena Demos, Doug Jacobson and Greg Edwards, three veteran Burners with a mission to bring Burning Man culture and community into a virtual world. This Universe has a storied history. Greg and Athena began developing a virtual Black Rock City back in 2014. In a mad twist of playa synchronicity, they decided to put vBRC on the AltspaceVR platform in early April 2020, mere days before we learned that Black Rock City was going Multiversal. And they’re already live — all you need is a VR headset and AltspaceVR account to create your avatar and dive in.
Doug recalls the synchronicity: “A few months ago after I’d been screaming from the rooftops for people to get a VR headset so that we could all be together (it’s better than a Zoom call), I saw that people had been putting scanned spaces into VR. I called up Greg and I said ‘Hey, you got any spaces I could upload to check out?’ and he said, ‘Why don’t you check out my old Burning Man world? From 2015 it’s been sitting on the shelf.’
“I uploaded it. He and I were standing on playa together, and we were like: ‘Wow, the technology finally caught up with us!’ And he said, ‘I think I’m going to start working on this again.’ So we started doing loads and uploads. And then Burning Man got multiversed. And we thought ‘Oh my god, we’re doing this coincidentally right at the time this was happening!’ It was all happenstance craziness.”
How to experience BRCvr: While BRCvr is best experienced using a VR headset, you can also participate using a Mac or PC computer.
Watch a preview of BRCvr in action:
Burners have been doing all the fun things we love to do in BURN2, the Second Life Burning Man community, since the very inception of the Second Life Platform.
We joined BURN2 Regional Contact SuperSuz and Cuga around the campfire in Deep Hole, a BURN2 Sim, to learn about the history and culture of Burning Man’s first virtual world.
Cuga explained, “Second Life was the first virtual world that was publicly accessible in 2001. Burning Man has had a presence in Second Life since the beginning. The founder of Linden Labs (which created the platform) was a Burner himself. And the first several years they had a dedicated area in the virtual world for the virtual Burning Man. In 2008 the company reorganized, but a new Burning Man group was formed at that time called BURN2… and BURN2 is still going until this day.”
How to experience BURN2: To dive into BURN2, you need a relatively recent PC or Mac. Download the Second Life Viewer, create an avatar and navigate to Deep Hole sim.
Get a glimpse of a BURN2 party called BURNstock, hosted in Deep Hole Sim.
Dylan Jones and Daniel Liebeskind developed their whimsical 2D Universe, Build-A-Burn, with the intention of helping us all foster that authentic human connection during a time when many are isolated.
Daniel shares the duo’s motivation behind creating Build-A-Burn: “When quarantine happened, when Burning Man announced they were doing some sort of digital ecosystem, we’d already been thinking about different ways to help people actually come together during quarantine, during this really challenging time. So Build-A-Burn was really inspired by: how can we make the experience of being at an in-person Burn digital? How can we actually give a very similar experience for now, and in theory, even going forward to make Burning Man more accessible to people, to reduce some of the barriers, some of the challenges to burn and spreading the ethos, spreading some of the Principles?”
How to experience Build-A-Burn: Anyone with a browser and a webcam can participate.
MysticVerse brings together the collaborative talents of Cyberius Rex and Simeone Scaramozzino, both from Black Rock City’s Camp Mystic. They spoke with us about how the build — the journey of co-creating MysticVerse — is the experience they are sharing with the community.
Cyberius Rex explains, “The gift that we’re trying to share not only with the Burning Man community, but also with the wider audience of people who always have been Burner-curious or have misconceptions about what Burning Man culture is, we’re hoping that those people will have an opportunity to be exposed to that without the dust, and without the barriers to entry.”
“Not that the final result doesn’t matter,” adds Simeone, “But it is the experience of building something from scratch collaboratively, growing on something, and altering it together to manifest everyone’s contribution. This is what this technology is truly about…”
“August 31 is not a Burning Man video game,” adds Cyberius Rex. “It is the result of the collective experience of creating something together.”
How to experience MysticVerse: Adventuring in MysticVerse is possible on any device or operating system — smartphone, computer or VR headset.
To learn more, visit the MysticVerse website.
Top photo: A glimpse inside Multiverse, one of the Recognized Universes of the Burning Man Multiverse