First debuted at Sundance 2019, Emergence is a short VR experience from indie studio Universal Everything that, with its unique crowd simulation, raises some interesting questions about life, society and how we connect to it all. You can now download the experience on Steam for free.

If you don’t take a few minutes to soak in Emergence, you might easily dismiss it as a quick, weird little piece about a glowing man that runs around an eerily barren wasteland, surrounded by shambolic hordes of people. It is that, but also a bit more.

Emergence serves up a short but pregnant message about how we’re the protagonists of our own stories. Like the little third-person golden avatar, sometimes people flock to you, run from you, mimick you, and even huddle together in undulating tribes, leaving you on the outside looking in. Sometimes you’re the objecct of red hot hatred and no one wants to touch you. Sometimes you only percieve those immediately around you, leaving everyone else on the planet to fade away to the literal size of ants.

Check out the promo below to soak up a bit of Emergence’s infectious, stylish weirdness.

Universal Everything says its about “visualising patterns of human behaviour and exploring the individual and the collective,” and that it was programmed to simulate intelligent behaviours whilst creating mesmerising patterns.

Although there’s no true goal or defined endpoint—it’s an art piece after all—it’s a nice reminder in a socially distanced world that we’re both individuals and a collective, even if we may lose sight of that little paradox every once in a while.

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You can download Emergence for free via Steam, which of course supports your standard selection of SteamVR-compatible headsets.

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Well before the first modern XR products hit the market, Scott recognized the potential of the technology and set out to understand and document its growth. He has been professionally reporting on the space for nearly a decade as Editor at Road to VR, authoring more than 3,500 articles on the topic. Scott brings that seasoned insight to his reporting from major industry events across the globe.
  • Ben Van Deventer

    Looks like a great example of the kind of bizarre art that’s simply meant to evoke whatever emotions it may trigger in you. A lot of people don’t seem to understand that about abstract art. Put them in this simulation and they just may get it.

  • “a short but pregnant message” ???

    • As in the phrase “pregnant with meaning”.

    • poignant

      • GordoSan

        Yep. While “pregnant” may be technically correct, I think poignant might have been what they meant to say in the sentence, because it just seems less oddly figurative.

        • Kevin White

          It doesn’t matter if it’s oddly figurative. “Pregnant” is understood as a metaphoric adjective.

    • Kevin White

      Google “pregnant definition” and the second entry is “full of meaning; significant or suggestive.”

      The usage in this article is appropriate.

  • jasonmartino

    That’s deep. I tried it and just ran around in circles. There was something uncomfortable about it. The perspective kept changing and the guy ran around too slowly. Maybe I should have used a game pad instead of my controllers. IMO, Paper Beast, although not free, is a awesome surreal/existential experience. In any case, I’m glad artists are out there expressing themselves in VR.

  • This reminds me of a 3D version of the mobile animation KIDS, which I say as a compliment. Very neat!

  • This demonstrates that now is possible to recreate in VR the fight of Neo with lots of agents Smith of Matrix Reloaded. And the final fight of Matrix Revolutions. Add the “lots of guns” fights of all movies saga and the bullet time and we will have the most exciting VR game ever

  • Ad

    You should cover modbox, it’s going to have a 2.0 release with a lot more functionality and all in headset. It looks like dreams, there’s even a video of someone making game logic inside the headset.

    • hhhhh

      so like neosvr?

      • Ad

        No, more like Dreams.

  • I’ve tried it at the Sandbox Immersive Festival in Qingdao and found it pretty nice and original. After some minutes anyway, the experience is over

  • duked

    Wow, that looked creepy!

  • It’s a tech demo with aspirations of pretentiousness. Don’t pretend there’s any great message, it’s just several flocking algorithms and fancy music. It’s free, which is a good price, and will entertain you for about 5 minutes. I thought it was amusing, but seriously, this sort of brain dead pseudo intellectualism is insulting. It’s a Flocking Tech Demo.

    If you want something equally pretentious but with a little gameplay and a few fun surprises, Paper Beast is now available for PCVR. It’s also amusing, if somewhat full of itself.

  • nw

    youtube Humanity PS4. I’ve been watitng for that for ages but no news. Is this related?

  • nw

    reminds me of Humanity game for PS4.

    Google Humanity PS4. Anyone know what happened to that game?