In 1997, the cult-classic space opera The Fifth Element introduced Earthlings to Rudy Rhod, a loquacious intergalactic radio personality with an exotic fashion sense. In a flick filled with flying car chases, hypnotizing arias, and Milla Jovovich karate-chopping aliens, the scenes with the androgynous, quick-talking host may be the most memorable. Entertainment within the worlds that entertain us is a fascinating vehicle for world building; there’s a natural inclination to dream of holograms, augmented displays, and the types of characters you may encounter. And while the holodeck is still a few generations away, the ability for humans to join cosmic broadcasts begins today.
444 Liberato is an invitation to guest-star on the hottest interdimensional talk show/game show in the galaxy. Hosted by Exodus (Elisabeth Stranathan; BedrumPlaii, DeadPlay), the sixty-minute, one-actor remote adventure uses Zoom as a portal to pull individual participants across time and space. Guests take on the roles of contestants of a futuristic version of This Is Your Life, which feels like an escape room mixed with late-night talk show elements.
The “orphic odyssey” begins with a lengthy online questionnaire well before stepping through the digital threshold. Some of the inquiries are straightforward and looking for a personal recount of a significant event, but others are mere word associations clearly designed to prod into one’s subconscious. Upon completion, the survey is returned in exchange for the less-than-metaphysical key item to the experience: a custom-made box, filled with mysterious objects needed to succeed on the show’s broadcast.
The interactive transmission begins with small games to sync our Earthly communications with Exodus’s relays. Once a visual connection is established, the goals of the game are made clear – the box contains multiple smaller boxes in various locks or chains that need to be opened. Using Exodus’s clues and the items provided, the aim is to unlock the final box – entitled “Excalibur” – that promises the grand prize of the event.
Perhaps it’s due to conditioning from previous escape rooms, or maybe Exodus knew how I’d approach her challenges from my answers to the questionnaire, but I entered the experience completely fixated on completing the puzzles as quickly as I could. After all, there’s always a time limit to these types of games, and the fear of not experiencing all I could drove me to work quickly. But after unlocking the first box, I had to reassess my priorities.
Every single item in the box, and every single answer to the puzzles had some sort of relationship to the answers I had provided Exodus weeks prior. It started with minute details – a coin with my lucky number punched into it, or a charm with my initials. But as the experience continued, it became more personal and connected – a tarot card from a deck that was split between every person partaking in 444 Liberato, a song that I listed played in the background during a segment, and even a handwritten letter to my wife, saying how my personal story about our love inspired Exodus.
I slowed my pace at this point, and I was no longer so concerned about “finishing” the experience and unlocking Excalibur. I couldn’t help but pour over all of the trinkets and documents, and ask Exodus as many questions as I could about whatever I held in my hands. The box and its contents were no longer a utilitarian gimmick or a means to an end; it was as valuable as a thoughtful homemade gift from an old friend. The degree of sincerity by which the art pieces and interactions are crafted quickly turned a fantastical, far-reaching space adventure into a deeply interpersonal moment between two Earth-bound humans.
The amount of effort and openness one puts into 444 Liberato correlates with what one will get out of the venture. The show is completely reliant on the participant for content through the questionnaire, thus no two experiences will be alike. The small puzzles ended up mostly being quite simple, which left plenty of time to complete the quest and open Excalibur, and also room for questions and stories along the way.
Wordplay is a major strength of 444 Liberato, in no small part due to Stranathan’s natural poetic abilities. Typically, the more interactive scenes of an immersive experience are the most memorable, but the scripted, melodic meters of Exodus’s sign-off wrap up the transmission on a mesmerizing high note, and will leave most with ideas to consider upon return to our pale blue dot.
444 Liberato aims to prove that to be human is to be a living mosaic – we are our own unique summary of the parts and pieces left behind from our interactions with others. As a statement, the thought alone is profound enough to build an experience upon. But the design choice to surpass the simple declaration and succeed in being a part of another’s mosaic is bold and elevates 444 Liberato to a higher dimension.