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1UP: Afterworld: The runway show as a quest. Wait for your turn, now it’s Balenciaga time

Balenciaga ups its game

With the business scope to present the new collection and to entertain its customers, Balenciaga chose to develop a video game as the medium to unveil the new Fall/Winter 2021 collection.

Last December 2020 the fashion world was waiting for the launch of “Age of Tomorrow” presented as a free online game. As described by the fashion designer Demna Gvasalia in the press release of the Fashion house: “The narrative of Afterworld is anchored to mythological pasts and projected futures with timeless archetypes and speculative imagery. The world may appear decaying at first, but it is far from a dystopian view, showing instead the slow return to a healthier balance of nature and industry”[85]. The goal was to complete all five zones, under the 20-minute timeframe while the player walks through different environments like a store, busy street, nightclub and dark forest.

By passing each level, the player meets characters dressed in Balenciaga outfits, but no interaction is possible between them. Despite being online with many other players worldwide, this is not a multiplayer game, nor an open world. In total, the looks of the collections are 50, worn by model-avatars throughout each zone. If you would like to explore the 5 Zones, watch this video:

This is an additional video, hosted on YouTube.

You can also have access it here: https://videogame.balenciaga.com/en/

At the end players could eventually transcend Afterworld by “beating the game”. The supposed reward was a real-life breathing exercise set in a virtual utopia. In the end, the hero has finally become a Master of Two Worlds: the one in which we are living, and the world of tomorrow imagined by Demna Gvasalia. I agree with Jon Porter, by quoting the description of the game by WWD: “The Age of Tomorrow is an “allegorical adventure” set in the year 2031, in which “a hero avatar advances throughout distinct zones, motivated by tasks and interactions.” This is generic, “as game descriptions go it’s not the most detailed — it could apply to every video game from Super Mario through to Wolfenstein — but obviously the focus here is the company’s fall 2021 collection”[86].

The meaning of the whole experience was to present the fall-winter collection in a new way and this was achieved with no mistake. But was this a gaming experience? While we might often perceive the act of play to be one of passive consumption, when we look closer at the way players creatively interact with video games today, we see them transcending the role of designer[87]. Connected across servers and social networks, communities play, collaborate and co-create online, democratizing design (and possibly fashion too) on a huge scale.

I’m not convinced that Afterworld – The Age of Tomorrow was a gaming experience, especially now that we have shared this knowledge. And I’m wondering if the Fashion house has not received the same doubting feeling by the gaming community, not the enthusiastic fashionista one of course. Why am I saying this? Pay attention to the video the brand uploaded on its own YouTube channel, resuming the whole experience, the comments are turned off.

Discuss

  • What do you think of these luxury brands jumping on the gaming bandwagon? Go for it or leave it to the experts?

Share your opinion with your peers in the comments below.

References:
85. https://www.papermag.com/balenciaga-video-game-2649328643.html
86. https://www.theverge.com/2020/11/26/21721371/balenciaga-afterworld-the-age-of-tomorrow-fashion-launch-video-game
87. M. Foulston, K. Volsing, (2018), Videogames: Design/Play/Disrupt. V&A London
88. Lantz Hearts and Minds, 2014. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CrO5IGoPgcw

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Fashion and Gaming: How Luxury Fashion Brands Use Gamification

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