Since 2016, ComplexCon has been a place where streetwear enthusiasts can gather in one place to buy exclusive gear, listen to amazing live music, and gorge at high-end food trucks. As with most live shows, though, the event isn’t taking place in 2020 — at least, not in the traditional way. In lieu of an in-person festival in Long Beach, Complex has built a video game where users can shop, watch talks and performances, and, yes, order from local restaurants.
It’s not a sprawling virtual world where millions can gather in one place, but rather a single-player experience designed to mimic the feeling of being at a live show. ComplexLand is a video game where the main activity is shopping, and you chase after sneaker drops like a hero in the latest open-world blockbuster.
ComplexLand will take place from December 7th–11th, and it’s completely free. The experience was built in WebGL, meaning it’s accessible via a web browser, either on desktop or mobile. Once you create an account, you’re dropped into a sort of abstract, futuristic cityscape and immediately prompted to create an avatar, choosing from various brandname hats and sneakers.
From there, the experience opens up, with a big world full of NPCs to talk to and points of interest to explore. To emulate some of the social experience, there will also be a persistent chat where attendees can talk about the day’s events. Most importantly: there are plenty of places to shop.
Complex’s head of collaborations, Neil Wright, says the creative team was inspired by Travis Scott’s appearance in Fortnite earlier this year, but they felt one key thing was missing. “Aesthetically, I thought it looked really cool. It was so over the top and whimsical in a way that was really creative,” Wright explains. “I think, for us, the one thing that it lacked was the commerce aspect. If you wanted to buy any of the merch, you had to go to Travis’ website. You had to go elsewhere for it. So when we were building this world, we wanted to make sure that commerce was top of mind.”
ComplexLand is essentially a game built entirely around shopping. Yes, you can watch talks where Fat Joe and Lil Yachty discuss the best sneakers of the year or listen to T-Pain’s thoughts on the future of esports. (All of the talks will be broadcast via YouTube Live.) But you’re also running through a sci-fi city in search of the latest gear. Complex has partnered with fashion brands like Adidas, BAPE, and Tokidoki for virtual booths that users can visit to shop for exclusive sneakers or hoodies. Everything is branded and shoppable: there are artists booths where individuals can sell their work, or you can pop by a Perrier booth plastered with Takashi Murakami’s iconic smiling flowers.
The experience also gamifies that ever-present part of streetwear culture: the limited drop. As players are exploring the world, they’ll get notifications that a new drop is about to happen. From there, it works sort of like an open-world game like Assassin’s Creed. Your mini-map will show you the general area where the drop can be found, but it’s up to you to actually find it. If you manage to, you’ll be entered into a queue for the opportunity to buy whatever the item is. “In my perfect scenario, your avatar will be shopping around, and then you’ll be alerted that a drop is going to occur. And you have to stop what you’re doing and then try to locate it in the world,” says Wright.
Perhaps the most ambitious aspect of ComplexLand is the food trucks. You’ll be able to go up to a virtual truck, order food, and have it delivered to your house. Here’s how Wright describes it:
It’s something that we really wanted to make sure we were able to execute on because the food trucks at ComplexCon are such an important part because the restaurants that we choose are really top-tier. Basically, what you’ll be able to do is, when you’re in the world, we’ll have four food trucks all based around things like burgers or tacos.
At that point, your avatar will approach the truck, and you’ll be able to see menu items that are region-specific — so if you’re in New York, you get the New York burger, and if you’re in Chicago, you get the Chicago burger — and then we’ll work with the restaurant to have that item available through their delivery platform. Once you select the menu, you’ll be connected to the restaurant’s food delivery service of choice, and it’ll be delivered to you.
ComplexLand represents the confluence of several trends, from events going virtual to the collision of fashion and gaming. Both of these became more prominent in 2020, whether it’s Balenciaga making a game to show off its next clothing line, Lil Nas X performing inside Roblox, or Animal Crossing fans working together to design in-game streetwear.
ComplexLand differs in some ways because it’s so overtly commercial, designed explicitly for shopping, but that could also be indicative of the future of virtual worlds. After all, Fortnite’s continued growth has been built largely off of pop culture collaborations with Marvel and Star Wars. Brands are everywhere. ComplexLand simply embraces this fact more than most. And while it was designed initially for a week-long event, it could also end up being a more permanent virtual space.
“We built it with the objective that we would probably bring it back,” says Wright.