I can not see my hands. Not the tip of the nose. As much as I shake one against the other, there is nothing there. Total darkness, to the point that the eyes have no handle or after several minutes have passed. The silence, in the room, is also total. The sensation, uterine, of floating in nothingness; to be nothing. More than overwhelming, relaxes. Until the zombie appears.
With a claw and a snarl, it takes me out of my dark placidity to face the adrenaline-like images of Call of duty. Black Ops 4, the last game of a franchise that already exceeds 10,000 million euros, leaving far behind what was achieved at the box office by sagas as bombastic as Star Wars, The Lord of the rings or Harry Potter.
EL PAÍS played – courtesy of Activision at an event held on a London ship of an old press – in the first room completely lined with Vantablack, the most opaque material in the world, an artificial nanotube pigment that achieves near-absolute darkness. The one that the artist Asif Khan used to surprise with his starry pavilion during the PyeongChang Olympics. Which is used for sensors in the military and aerospace industry more cutting edge. The one that lines the dial of a watch that costs more than 82,000 euros.
The sensations with the command playing Blacks ops 4 They are the same as always. Pure adrenaline and testosterone, fleeting combats between machine gun bursts, rockets and hand grenades with hypermusculated marines as gladiators. But what surrounds me is extraordinary. Total darkness. Tangible darkness And a screen arranged at such a distance that it becomes the owner of all my visual space. Only the image exists. A slight defect in the scenography, a very fine crack between the entrance doors, was the only reference in a total vacuum. It was especially striking that, with the TV already on and the explosions thundering, the light that the monitor spilled barely diffused in the room. The immersion was absolute.
The room was three meters high, three long and four wide. The Vantablack, of the VBx 2 quality -capable of swallowing 99% of the light to which it is exposed-, completely covered the four walls and the ceiling. The floor was covered with another type of coating that allowed to walk by him, because this is one of the limitations of the material. It adheres like a grit to the wall, so direct contact should be avoided at all costs. Accidentally, I touched the inner face of a wall and my fingers were immediately covered with the substance, a kind of pencil lead flakes of brittle texture.
The cost of this unique game room is a mystery that neither Activision nor Surrey Nanosystems, provider of Vantablack, wanted to reveal. The company website reveals that a small square of 40×30 millimeters of material costs, to the institution that wants to buy it, about 343 euros. A simple rule of three would trigger the cost of this stay, at that price, to more than 10 million euros. "Obviously, that's not the cost of the room. But when we lined the 3,500 square meters of an Olympic pavilion – for the work of the artist Asif Khan – we would have spent about 656 million euros. The cost of the Vantablack of this event is comparable with other special coatings in the industry ", says his CTO, Ben Jensen, to this newspaper, without revealing the total price of the room. But there is no doubt that it is very high. In an interview with the Mental Floss website, Steve Northam, director of the company, stated the following: "Ounce per ounce, it is much more expensive than gold or diamond".
The key question is: will this experience, which implies an immersion in the unpublished image, come to the houses sometime? Ben Jesen, CTO of Surrey Nanosystems, who served as master of ceremonies at the event, ruled out the possibility today: "The patent does not allow us to sell it to individuals for the time being. In the future who knows. "" But would it be possible to make a movie theater or a playroom open to the public? "" We had not considered it. But yes, that would be possible. And a great idea. "Although there would be challenges. Due to the sandy nature of the material, which prevents any contact, it would be necessary either to fence the walls or to opt for a much harder (and expensive) coating forged with carbon nanotubes. But technically it would be possible to consider a cinema or a games room plunged into total darkness.
This shocking way to promote a new videogame title is once again a symptom of that peculiar moment that this medium is going through. While its cultural position is consolidating, the video game continues to express its insecurity in the face of how to present itself to the general public. In this event, conceived for just half a dozen journalists from leading media like EL PAÍS in their respective countries, the attraction was that of the fairground.
One that left indelible marks in this journalist was the one raised by Ubisoft with the excuse of launching Assassin's creed. Syndicate. It closed Saint Paul's Cathedral in London and invited more than a hundred journalists from the generalist world press, among whom I was, to a dinner in its catacombs. And the inverse move starts to be seen, with the entrée from an animated legend like Aardman – Wallace and Groomit's house and winner of four Oscars – as a video game creator. This is how this medium is, eager to demonstrate at all costs and at all costs, its relevance in the present. Next, surely, will be playing on the Moon. I hope, as a Galician, to honor the song.