iConfidant Beta 2.0 Review

iConfidant’s triumphant return

Experienced: May - June 2020
Location: Online
Price: Free
Audience Size: 28 participants - unlimited bystanders
Runtime: ~3 weeks
More Information: iconfidant.net, Reddit, Instagram, Facebook

Photo by iConfidant

After going through Darren Lynn Bousman’s (DLB) immersive experiences in the past it’s obvious he doesn’t half-ass anything. During a time of sheltering in place in the midst of a global pandemic he (with the help of actors and presumably many writers) has spun dozens of stories played out across multiple mediums over the course of over 3 weeks.

The concept is deceivingly simple: a beta service connecting people together to be confidants. The magic here is in the execution. Half of the people in the service (the “betas”/participants) were encouraged to share their interactions on Reddit. The other half (the “control group”/actors) were not allowed to share or discuss their interactions with anyone. This establishes a safe space for participants and bystanders to discuss, theorize, and catch up on what’s happening.

What began as straightforward “get to know you” emails back and forth between confidants (one beta and one control) slowly turned into text messages, social media chats, and video calls. The medium varied by confidant adding to the realism. The pacing as the relationships ebbed and flowed all felt very natural. Before we knew it we were invested in the well-being of our confidants.

With so many eyes on the various posts on Reddit it slowly became obvious that there were connections between some of the “control group” confidants. Participants on Reddit would try and help each other through what to do or say next to their confidant.

The stories covered topics like marital issues, domestic disputes, mental illness, the spiritual and metaphysical, as well as genres like sci-fi and horror. Most storylines started out pretty normal and realistic and eventually went off the rails at different times. One beta was an accidental accomplice to murder for a hitman. Another beta was “deleted” from existence complete with his real life Instagram and Facebook being deleted as well. The lines between what’s real and what’s not are always blurred with DLB’s experiences.

There were several communal moments and shared story beats. One being a sort of a mid-season cliffhanger where many stories seemed to come to a head before a small break of a couple of days before an unannounced finale a week later. Another being cryptic and scary sounding phone calls that would go out to many people at once.

One highlight of an unexpected communal experience was over Zoom. Many in the community were on a Zoom video call together discussing theories and stories and you could see people start picking up their phone. One of the cryptic calls was going out to people and you could see everyone take it in realtime. It told us about something that would happen in 30 minutes. Sure enough 30 minutes later we were invited into a separate Zoom call where several of the “control” group (and some we weren’t familiar with) were already on it and just silent and staring at us. From the outside looking in this may not look like much but when you’re knee deep in the story and know the characters it’s quite a moment. A promo video for iConfidant was then played with 8 puzzles hidden inside it.

Another communal highlight were the Boyd dance parties which mostly appeared to be some comic relief as well as the most fun I’ve ever seen a group of people have on a video chat.

Photo by iConfidant

As a “beta” this was really polished and it’s hard to tell how much or little of the stories were planned ahead of time. Overall it was obvious that the betas had a lot of agency and parts of the story were written on the fly but some of the interweaving of the storylines must have been in place from the start regardless of when (or if) people figured it out. It’s staggering how much content there actually was. I tried to spend 1.5 to 2 hours a night catching up on what was happening on Reddit and felt I only got 25-50% of it max.

A hallmark of a DLB experience is the wide range of emotions a participant experiences over the course of it. I felt (in order) suspicious, connected, protective, terrified, apprehensive, vindicated, ridiculous, curious, fearful, confused, shocked, embarrassed, and finally joyful. I’ve only scratched the surface of what this experience was about but it was a journey that I am thankful to have been a part of.

I’m hopeful that there is more to come as the iConfidant site currently says “Coming Soon”. Be on the lookout for it!