As the community manager for Shadow's Edge, I am constantly trying to think up new ways to engage our players outside of the game. Meaning, I am finding new ways to get people talking about us and mental health topics on social media, in our blogs, and in their own lives. But with mental health still being a stigmatized topic for some people, it can be hard to get people to talk about it or to get interested in it for long.
I have been toying around with the topic of "virtual influencers" lately...
If you don't know what a virtual influencer is, it's basically the same as any social media influencer, only the person that the account is about isn't necessarily living in the real-world. They might be an avatar made in a 3d program, or even someone that is drawn. They talk/post about relatable topics, take selfies, share pictures as if they took them, just like you or I would on social media. And the voice behind them is real, only instead of it being the voice of the one person in the picture (because they don't actually exist) their voices might be a collective of people who all hold similar values and ideas.
Here are just two examples of virtual influencers:
@LeChat.vv is a virtual influencer that shares videos of her dancing, just like you or I might share on TikTok. I came across her page on YouTube while browsing for videos and was really shocked that her creators have even managed to figure out how to do live streams with this character using motion capture technology! How cool is that?
She does popular TikTok dances, music videos, song covers, and always has cute new outfits while doing it!
You can check out her TikTok account here.
Zero from Nexus
I was introduced to the virtual influencer Zero at a convention here in Salt Lake City, Utah for animators, video game creators, and other digital professionals back in June. Christopher Travers with VirtualHumans.org had a panel on Zero, where the virtual influencer even came on the big screen to say hello to the audience there. What was really cool about this one was that he could respond to questions in real-time and did so with a lot of unique and witty personality.
Zero streams on Twitch and plays games like Minecraft, Apex Legends, and Call of Duty: Warzone, and he is pretty similar to many of the "real" gaming influencers many follow.
You can check out his TikTok account here.
I've been obsessed with finding out how these are made and managed, and it got me thinking... what is one of the Guardians from Shadow's Edge was a virtual influencer?
Having an account that was "run" by one of the Guardians would be a great way to engage our following. Not only would it be exciting for our team and our fellow tech-interested colleagues, but it would be easier for our followers to identify with a character rather than a corporate-like account.
Recently, I toyed around with this idea as a test and created this animated ad for our game. We shared it on TikTok, Instagram, and Facebook. And so far, it seems like people responded to it quite nicely! So now I REALLY can't get the idea out of my head of how to make Pax more real and more relatable, while also keeping the expectation obvious that this person is entirely fictional.
For those interested in the "how":
When I created this video of Pax, I did it first by animating her in a software called Autodesk Maya, then rendered out the frames and compiled them using Adobe After Effect.
While the video came out looking pretty cool, it took a little bit more time than I think would be feasible if I wanted to post multiple videos a week of Pax, like an influencer would (more particularly the animation). So, it would make more sense to figure out how to do motion capture on Pax, right?
This idea is still a work-in-progress.
I am still working out the tech and the other "how's" for this idea, but I am still very excited to play around with this idea whenever I can. I know we have a lot of tech-enthusiasts in our audience, so I wanted to share this with you all! This isn't to say that this will indeed happen for Shadow's Edge in the near future, as there are always speedbumps along the way when it comes to picking up new projects. But I hope this is indeed possible and will share more if that becomes the case!