Matt Bellamy is an unapologetic technophile. He’s also a rock star, which is how most people know him. But Muse’s frontman and lead songwriter has a deep and abiding interest in technology, resulting not only in spectacular live shows—featuring things like flocks of drones and searing solos played on a custom guitar with a built-in Kaoss Pad—but also a genuine curiosity around most things high-tech.
“I leaned into VR when I started reading about simulation theory itself and what that means—about how the world we’re living in could be a simulation. We don’t know, and there is a chance,” says Bellamy. “Because the mechanisms behind the universe are very mathematical. You know, the way we understand the universe is through maths, and so that could suggest an element of programming involved.”
Bellamy was full of such contemplations when the band came to tour the main Microsoft Campus in early 2018.
They were in Redmond to learn about the latest in mixed reality offerings, hoping to discover a tool to blow fans’ minds all over again. After the next-level experience provided by their Drones tour, the group had a lot to live up to. So how could the band immerse their fans even deeper into the world of their latest album, Simulation Theory? The answer: virtual reality.
"I think VR is genuinely the next step in terms of getting that immersive feeling that people maybe felt in the early 20th century when they first saw motion pictures." - Matt Bellamy
Working with Microsoft specialists across mixed reality, the band created a series of custom VR games for the Enhanced Experience of their Simulation Theory world tour.
We’re trying to take you even further into the world that the music creates.Dom Howard, Muse
These games are vital in bringing fans into the world of the album. As Bellamy notes, “I think this album is the best we’ve ever done in terms of creating this world around everything from the videos, and music, the live show, and now obviously our games as well. It’s the first time we’ve really been this involved in so many different mediums and managed to get them all to feel connected.”
Each game is soundtracked and inspired by a different music video off the album, all of which have various cyberpunk stylings that evoke ‘80s sci-fi flicks from Back to the Future to Blade Runner. In keeping with the themes of the album itself, the goal of the games is to blur the lines between reality and virtual reality for fans.
The games are available only to fans with the Enhanced Experience ticket, which also includes bonuses like a “Thought Contagion” retro lunchbox, interactive photo ops, and a custom poster. It was important to the band that they offer something immersive, as an additional way to connect with their audiences.
The VR arcade is traveling with Muse on their Simulation Theory world tour.
Fans go inside the video for "The Dark Side" with the Retrograde Racer game.
Fans can play the VR games by purchasing an Enhanced Experience ticket to a Muse concert.
Fans compete for high scores across the three custom VR games.
As Dom says, “Now it’s really cool because you can just literally go inside ‘The Dark Side’ video with the driving game.” Adds Matt, “Yeah, I kind of feel like we have to do it with the whole album.”