American Express Unstaged – Taylor Swift Experience
Requires iOS 7.0 or later. Compatible with iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch. This app is optimized for iPhone 5, iPhone 6, and iPhone 6 Plus.
Age Rating: 12+
In case you shook it off as no big deal and forgot, Taylor Swift recently released an app called The Taylor Swift Experience to accompany her latest music video. Actually, it’s called “American Express Unstaged: Taylor Swift Ex…“, because it’s so ridiculously AmEx-branded that there’s not enough room on the App Store for the full title to be displayed when you search for it.
Here’s my two-second recap of
American Express’s Taylor’s app, for those of you who don’t want to bother downloading it:
- 360-degree views of the rooms of the mansion in which Taylor Swift’s ‘Blank Space‘ video was filmed
- Tap on glowing doors to see more rooms
- Tap on random objects to see them up-close (this is super boring, I promise)
- Occasionally see Taylor Swift dancing with/throwing things at her guy
- All while ‘Blank Space’ plays in the background
I know what you’re thinking – wow, this sounds like the most revolutionary, mind-bending, fully immersive app experience in the entire world. 360-degree views? What the what? Well, tough potatoes, because I’m here to totally burst your bubble.
I’ve played through this app (you only get the duration of Taylor’s song to explore the mansion in each play-through) at least 25 times now – first, because I was looking for the revelation, and then, because I wanted to write this article on how there is no revelation. While the app (and let’s stop calling it Taylor Swift’s app, it’s American Express’s app, people) offers some neat behind-the-scenes stuff for diehard Swifties (is that what we call Taylor Swift fans? It is now), it’s really not particularly impressive.
TL;DR – this app is pretty average, and here’s why:
It’s not new
In the app, er, experience, you get to explore the mansion in which Swift filmed her ‘Blank Space’ video. Sort of. What you actually get to do is see 360-degree views from a fixed point in five rooms, plus a hallway.
Wow, so revolutionary!
When I was in 7th grade – 15 years ago – I did a website project on Paris, France. I was pretty tech-savvy back then, and I found something really awesome: A 360-degree view from the Eiffel Tower. What! This was amazing! I immediately embedded it on my webpage, and got straight A’s for the rest of the year (or something like that).
Anyway, here’s my point: 360-degree photography? That’s been a thing forever. Sure, in this app you can move your phone to look around, but that’s just a gimmicky use of the gyroscope, not a revolution. Also, in this app, you’ll occasionally see people moving about – but they’re a little blurry and fuzzy, and you’re standing in a fixed point in each room, so how hard was it really to film their movements? My first thought upon completing this experience was that it reminded me a heck of a lot of my 7th grade Paris project… and that’s probably not a good sign.
It’s not a game
A lot of people have been calling this a game; it’s not. Or at least, it’s a very poorly designed game.
The app is very limited in what you can do: You can walk through doors (so long as they’re glowing), you can stand in the middle of the room and look around, and you can occasionally tap on objects to get close-ups. Some of the objects are kind of cool Easter eggs for fans, like a picture of Swift’s grandmother; others are relevant to the video, like a text message from ‘the other woman;’ and others are just random, like sheets of music fluttering in the wind or a grandfather clock that does nothing.
You’re sort of supposed to follow Taylor and her boy-toy through the mansion, but if you get caught up looking at anything for too long, you’ll lose them. At one point, I was temporarily mesmerised by a tray of cupcakes, and when I looked up, oops… they were nowhere to be found. So I wandered sort of aimlessly through the mansion (er, through all five rooms of the mansion), and eventually found them again, as they were walking through a door. There are a lot of doors in this game, and Taylor and her boy always seem to be walking through them.
Were I to judge this as a game, I’d give it around 1.5 mice. The storyline is confusing (oh yeah, there are also a bunch of random other characters who routinely show up, just to make it even more confusing), finding your way around is difficult (every door looks the same, and since you’re standing at a fixed point, you never know where you came from), and a lot of the Easter eggs seem lazy.
It’s not the future of music videos
Overall, this ‘experience’ feels really, really scattered – sort of like the song (don’t get me wrong, I’m usually a fan of Swift’s music, but this? Nah).
It’s not the ‘fully immersive’ experience it claims to be – you can only see five (six with the hallway) rooms of this huge mansion? Come on, now, we all know mansions have more than six rooms. Where’s the kitchen? The secret passageways? The attic with the magic rose trapped under a bell jar?
At best, it’s a series of 360-degree photographs with a couple of moving elements and some hotspots you can tap on. The scavenger hunt is a neat idea, but the overall execution is a bit boring and unsurprising. Pull back a curtain, and you’ll see CRAZY TAYLORFIED portraits of her former lovers. This would be interesting, except that’s totally what I expected to see. Sorry, Taylor, you’re just too predictable.
Of course, if the point of this video is to get you to experience the scattered weirdness of a teenage girls’ brain on boys… then it does a pretty good job.