Mine Gala Review + Virtual Festivals

Thoughts | Oliver Smith

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I consider myself a music-lover, but after several years of attending live performances, I’ve become somewhat disillusioned with the ‘concert experience’. What was once guaranteed to be a mind-blowing night has become a usually slightly-disappointing roll of the dice, as even some of my most anticipated shows fail to measure up to those of the past.

Despite my love for music, I also have a strong aversion to sweat-inducing heat, spending money, and prolonged periods of time spent standing amongst other human beings—coincidentally three common characteristics of music festivals.

Enter Mine Gala.

A free virtual music festival, situated inside a sandbox game, Minecraft, that I could attend from the comfort of my own computer chair, with a lineup for every taste, featuring artists I love, including 100 gecs, Iglooghost & BABii & Kai Whiston, and Polyphia, with two themed festival stages, where I could speak with friends without having to scream into their ears, while free merch is being delivered to my door? Okay, I might be kidding about that last part—but otherwise, I was sold.

The event was organized by Open Pit, the group which also planned and produced two other Minecraft music festivals within the past year: Coalchella and Fire Festival 2019. Although purportedly an event catered to Minecraft players, this group ensured that Mine Gala was “accessible, inclusive, creative, and representative of [their] incredible and diverse community” (Open Pit)+. Over the course of the event, donors helped Open Pit raise $1405.23 USD to support Rainbow Railroad, who help LGBTQI people “seek haven from state-enabled violence”.

Open Pit isolated distinct components of the festival to make the experience as accessible as possible. To access these core elements, one could join the music stream, free of charge, through the minecraft.xxx webpage. Voice chats in Open Pit’s Discord server (also free) allowed festival-goers to enjoy the music together as well.

However, the full experience required owning a copy of Minecraft, which allowed players to actually enter the festival grounds. This included the Industrial and Plant stages, both of which featured unique decorations and artist lineups, which played simultaneously. The grounds also featured events and attractions, like an art gallery and a Minecraft skin contest.

With all components brought together, Mine Gala provided a truly immersive festival experience. As I turned down C418’s soothing, albeit repetitive, Minecraft soundtrack and pulled up the Industrial Stage’s audio stream, I became lost in the bass and the blocks. Pressing WASD and the spacebar to move around the crowd and jump may not have required as much energy as the real-life equivalent, but I still felt the rush of adrenaline that is associated with hearing a crushing beat and dancing with hundreds of other people.

My integration into the festival began when I processed the multisensory experience of interacting with other festival-goers. My brain translated hundreds of chat window messages, whizzing by every second, into the cheers and jeers of the crowd. The players bouncing around chaotically, resembling moving particles, made nearly perfect approximations to the energy of a mosh pit. This illusion was compounded by the presence of the musicians logged into the server, standing on stage, speaking to the audience through the music streams, and interacting with the crowd. Finally, seeing my friends beside me on the festival grounds completed the immersion process.

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Knowing that hundreds of people were present in the same moment, listening to the same music, approximates the festival experience strongly enough to warrant a legitimate performance format––and its potential is powerful. Consider being able to reach every web user simultaneously to deliver a concert, incorporating visuals and interactivity along with the music. Take Marshmello’s concert inside popular game Fortnite as an example, which drew 10.7 million people in February 2019, the biggest event in the game’s history. Or FOX Sports VR, which allows viewers to watch sports bouts, such as the FIFA World Cup, within a virtual stadium through VR technology.

This format reflects two general trends manifested in today’s younger generations: first, an emphasis on the importance of experience in every product or service; and second, a retreat into virtual connectivity. Once the necessary technology is developed, people may begin to value experiences in a digital format—a virtual reality.

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