06 . Axion

Ivaylo Getov, Jasmine Idun Isdrake, Kyle Gustafson

Axion is the name of a theorized subatomic particle that some scientists hope is a solution to the cosmological mystery of dark matter. Axion is also an immersive documentary game engaging players with the perspectives of contemporary scientists who confront the deepest questions in astrophysics. By allowing a player a measure of freedom to navigate and discover an evolving virtual environment, the project suggests a broad consonance between the process of scientific discovery and a personal, emotive confrontation with the unknown.

Axion allows a player to discover a story about discovery. By giving a sense of personal agency, they are invited to experience the story not only via the arc that we design, but through their own personalized path, with or without providing biometric data through an EEG sensor. Axion is designed to respond to both conscious and unconscious interactivity.

The experience focuses on the role of science as a source of questions and intellectual transformation, while exploring the personal stories and motivations of scientists struggling at the limits of human understanding of natural law. The project is unique and shows a new way of sharing knowledge and learning that could be important for the future of education and storytelling.

Axion (www.axion.is) was conceived and developed at CERN during the Tribeca Film Institute Hackathon <Story Matter> in 2014. Large parts of the story world map are recreated from real footage from the CERN lab areas and tunnel systems underneath. The Axion team is now led by Jasmine Idun Isdrake (Playcentric Industries and Institute; www.maker.ninja; jasmine@maker.ninja), Ivaylo Getov (Luxloop creative studio; www.luxloop.com; ivaylo@luxloop.com) and Kyle Gustafson, PhD (gustafsonkyle@gmail.com). Special thanks goes to co-developers Rain Ashford, Julian Maciejewski and Jason Wishnow. Soundtrack collaborators are Alain Thibault and Ida Long. We currently have eight scientists involved in the project, from both theoretical and experimental backgrounds, across a wide range of institutions. We have conducted interviews with top researchers in the field of dark matter and dark energy at CERN, Columbia University, NYU, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and Caltech.

Axion is available as an application for Mac and Windows, and as an art installation. Full game immersion requires a Mindwave EEG Headset (Neurosky, Inc. San Jose, CA).

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