Virtual Prey: An Interview with Adam Prusan and Mitch Lerman
3:AM: So what makes you tick?
AP: Mitch and I have very different tastes in entertainment. I enjoy a mixture of world music, hard rock and some classical. I’m also a huge Bjork fan. I tend to like unusual movies like Jacob’s Ladder, Being John Malkovich and Fight Club. Mitch is a fan of many classic 70s films, including Deliverance, The Godfather, The Exorcist and Jaws.
3:AM: Digital Decadence: how did you get involved and what makes it exciting working there?
AP: Digital Decadence is a highly creative but informal company. When we’re not out in the field shooting, we’re in the studio editing, answering e-mail and brainstorming. Considering that this is basically a two-man operation (with some help), it can be exciting and stressful dealing with what’s thrown at us.
AP: I believe there are elements of all those in Virtual Prey. Mitch has always been excited by the female heroine. There’s something inherently sexy and exhilarating about a chick with balls and guts. Sometimes I describe Virtual Prey as an interactive Perils of Pauline. I think the idea of being able to interact with a horror film is a major attraction. As far as I know, this is the first.
3:AM: Bonnie-Jill Laflin: how did she get involved in the project?
ML: One of the toughest aspects of bringing the game to light of day, was its casting. We knew that the star would have to have broad appeal. We originally received close to one thousand submissions. From that, believe it or not, we were not satisfied with the applicants. A big problem we encountered was in person, the actresses did not resemble their pictures. It wasn’t until we received a zed card of Bonnie-Jill that we knew we had found our girl. I say this because Adam and I had seen her two appearances on the Howard Stern Show. From that, we knew she looked great on film, and the camera loved her. After Adam brought to me the videotape interview with her, it was a no-brainer that she was the one.
3:AM: Tell us about the game and what gives it its edge.
ML: Virtual Prey is a live-action, multi-path game of fate that you can play on any DVD player! It features Raven — a beautiful young girl being hunted by an unrelenting serial killer. At various points during her flight for life, you will see three arrows appear on the screen. Each arrow represents a possible fate for Raven. To activate a fate, click on an arrow using your DVD remote or mouse. Virtual Prey has an innovative way of being played. If you choose the correct option, Raven will encounter her pursuer, neutralize him and advance to the next level of survival. If you choose an incorrect arrow, she will suffer a gruesome death! If you do not make a choice within 4 seconds, Raven automatically loses a life. If she loses her life 3 times, you lose the game and must begin again.
But there’s more… Virtual Prey contains a secret that most people will never see! There are always problems when developing an interactive product such as Virtual Prey. The most difficult challenge, was making sure the game wouldn’t become repetitious upon multiple plays. We resolved the dilemma by coming up with what we call the Random Chance Design. For instance, say Raven dies three times, you lose the game and must begin again. The first scene you’re going to see isn’t the same scene that opened the game. In fact, there are many alternate openings and surprises you’ll find on multiple plays. But the goal always remains the same — to deliver Raven from evil.
3:AM: Did you have a target audience when you made it? If so, who did you have in your sights?
ML: I believe the 18-35 market will love Virtual Prey. Hey, here’s something new we can do with our DVD players! How many times can you watch The Matrix? I think people will be intrigued and surprised by what’s in store for Raven McCoy.
3:AM: The game is a classic ‘woman in peril’ game. What’s the answer to the accusation that it’s sexist trash? Again, is it a boy’s thing? And is sexist trash always a bad thing?
ML: I’d like to think we all secretly love sexist trash. Virtual Prey is not the story of a victim, but a fighter. When the player eventually wins the game, they will discover Raven is a full-on vigilante and takes her revenge with extreme prejudice.
3:AM: Is the digital media the new rock’n’roll?
AP: For artists who understand the possibilities of digital media, it’s totally rock’n’roll. I compare Virtual Prey to a garage band recording their first album. Some of our favorite games are Maz Payne, Medal of Honor and Postal. Mitch is eager to check out The Thing game. As far as web sites…you gotta love 3:AM!
3:AM: Do you think people outside web culture and digital game culture really understand what’s going on? Have politicians and educationalists, for instance, got a clue?
ML: I find there are still many people who don’t know how to get on the Internet, don’t understand DVD and are generally afraid of technology. Usually they tend to be older folks, but also some young ones too. I think all this stuff is just too new for a lot of people. I think educationalists are definitely using multimedia for the good. Politicians seem to frown on any form of violent escapist entertainment. They need to lighten up.
3:AM: Any clues about where the next revolution might take place in the digital world? Any trends you’re noticing in L.A.?
AP: It’s hard to say… Revolutions usually take time to develop. You don’t always notice them until something hits big. I don’t see any unusual trends in L.A., but these days innovations can happen anywhere.
3:AM: What’s it like in L.A. at the moment — war on terrorism, police beating up on blacks and political stuff like that?
AP: Things are ok in L.A. at the moment. The only place I see the war on terrorism is at the airport. The only thing I can say about politics is Howard Stern should be President!
3:AM: What’s your next project?
AP: If Virtual Prey does well, then we will begin preproduction on Virtual Prey 2. At this time, we’re seeing especially strong interest from the UK.
First published in 3:AM Magazine: Saturday, November 2nd, 2002.