October 27, 2021
Games Lift: Denise Koch and her wicked plans
Nothing piques curiosity like an unusual idea. "Monstersongs VR" is an ingenious project, taking a successful rock musical and developing it into an interactive VR experience combining different media. In order to understand the idea’s origin and the speed with which it moves forward, you have to take a look at the project manager behind it – Denise Koch has a unique background.
As a producer, Denise has brought musical and theatrical shows to the stage. She has managed projects, communities and marketing activities for game studios large and small. For her, a deep understanding of all the disciplines involved is crucial when working across genres and media. "I have a master's degree in Creative Producing," she explains, "and that helps me put on different hats." If she comes across an area new to her, she can be very proactive: In preparation for her VR project, she has accumulated two years of experience with Blender and Unreal Engine.
Denise doesn’t see herself as a lone fighter, though. Important to her is her "network of good friends" that she has built up throughout her career. During her time studying and working in London, she has gained a foothold in the theatre scene. Here, she worked for renowned theatre companies like Goat & Monkey on site-specific shows across different media. She is particularly fond of interactive formats and unusual venues. Interactive entertainment like murder mystery dinner parties and escape rooms are very popular in Germany, but more innovative site-specific shows are still deemed to be experimental. There hasn’t been an international hit on the scale of a “Sleep No More” yet.
When virtual reality experienced its latest hype and drew the interest of London's creative scene, Denise was there. "I loved the idea of combining VR and theatre," she explains. The inspiration for the perfect way to do it came from her network. Composer Rob Rokicki has written a successful rock musical with "Monstersongs", and illustrator Dave O'Neill has already developed a graphic novel out of the source material. Now, Denise has convinced both of them to collaborate on her project; and with VR developer Michael Adefehinti, she has brought along an expert for immersive experiences.
Along with her team, Denise is developing "Monstersongs VR". In this new adaptation, players do not experience songs as spectators, but get to walk around in a in an abandoned theatre where they meet the monsters. Interaction with them is encouraged – players can expect a more rewarding experience if they do. The monster songs will tell allegorical tales that highlight “the humanity that binds us all”.
The nature of the interactions will differ from song to song. Denise takes inspiration from escape rooms for puzzle design. But she still is in what she calls a "workshop phase" – with the term, borrowed from theatre, she implies that fundamental design decisions are still being made. One recent example is an exploration of how motion capture can transport the feeling of a real live performance. Rob Rokicki and David O'Neill stay in regular contact.
For Denise, good things keep coming from her network. It’s also how she learned about the Games Lift Incubator: Last year’s participant Roman Fuhrer, the solo developer behind OneManOnMars, worked with her. That's how she became aware of the program, and Roman’s experience inspired her to apply herself.
Denise is not just in Hamburg for a single project, though: "I want to settle here. I want to build up a company," she clarifies. She wants to be part of the local community. Particularly helpful to her is the "continuous, lively discussion” that happens in the incubator between teams, tutors and mentors. As an example of lessons already learned, she highlights her pitch deck. Communicating her unusual game idea clearly was a challenge in the past – now, she can “plainly put the idea on paper” in a way that talks to a broad and diverse audience.
“Monstersongs VR” still has a long road ahead before it reaches any headsets. But with Denise behind the fascinating idea and the strong team gathered around her, this is a show we do not want to miss.