So, I’ve got really into the interactive experiences. I went to the Doctor Who: Time Fracture experience twice, and then to the Guardians of the Galaxy one. Only the once, but I want to go again. And this time, I went to Saint Jude.
The concept of Saint Jude was immediately intriguing. The basic premise is that the ticket holder is a Guidestar volunteer; someone who uses newly created technology to talk to people in comas. This is done with a system that translates their brain patterns into speech able to be heard through the headphones. And there is also a microphone that the Guidestar can use to speak to the patient.
The setup prior to the interactive experience worked very well. It was required to go upstairs, but the experience is also easily accessible to wheelchair users, as there is a lift. Actually, a lot about the event seemed like it would be suitable for people with sight and hearing problems. The majority of the experience requires you to speak and listen, but there’s also a way of having the text on the screen to read, along with the Guidestar actually being able to type out what they want to say. I thought that was really good.
While the majority of the experience did take place through the system, known as EchoSump, there were also some live actors involved. These people acted as helpers and guides, but they were also part of the overall storyline, so their presence felt very seamless.
At first glance, the setting of Saint Jude did have the feel of a hospital, which made sense, as the goal of the Guidestar is to help the coma patient, also known as a sleeper, under their care. For me, at least, my interactions with my sleeper took a rather sinister turn.
I’ve only been to Saint Jude the once, at least for now, but I really liked the individual feel of the experience. When I first realised there was quite a large group of people attending, I was a bit worried about how it would work. Would multiple people be trying to direct one storyline? I needn’t have worried, as every person had their own workstation to interact with their own particular speaker.
Since my sleeper was in a coma, and therefore dreaming, there was a really intriguing mix of memory and fantasy that I needed to sort through by talking and trying to guide them through what they were seeing. At various points, a memory morphed into a dream, or vice versa, and I was kind of floundering, with a confusion of, ‘What do I do next?’ I don’t think I deliberately guided the story in the path it took, but since I’ve only experienced it the one time, I can’t say how similar events would unfold if I was assigned to a different sleeper.
The experience makes use of AI technolgy, which was a little awkward at times, as like with all computers, there are some misunderstandings. For instance, for some reason, my name became Matt during the course of the conversation. Since my name is Sarah, I don’t know quite how that got picked up. There were other minor misunderstandings, too, so a few kinks that probably need to be ironed out. The voices didn’t sound computer simulated, though, which was a massive point in the experience’s favour. I’m not sure I would have been as thoroughly engaged as I was if I’d been able to hear I was speaking with actual AI. It definitely wouldn’t have helped my suspension of disbelief.
The experience was extremely engaging and I was able to be drawn into the storyline and my conversations with the sleeper. I could also really easily picture what my sleeper was seeing in their mind, due to the descriptions given. I did hit a snag where I was completely lost over what to do and came close to having to call for help. However, the system was able to provide enough prompts that I didn’t need to ‘break character’ and admit I was stuck.
All in all, I really enjoyed the experience. It was tense and engaging and I’m happy with how it turned out. I did receive a printout of my ‘personality assessment’ before I left, which I won’t share here; partly because it got really creased when I put it in my bag, but it also contains really major spoilers.
I’d like to experience Saint Jude again and see if there are different paths available for me to take, though I’m not sure I could make another trip to London for that alone. If I went again, I think it would have to be on a day I was already planning to do something in London. But I definitely think it was a worthwhile experience the first time. I would highly recommend attending this event.