Since I started working in VR in 2014, I have been thinking about how to craft a compelling narrative in this emerging medium. It’s been a challenge for me because I came from a traditional filmmaking background and I’ve never been a gamer. That said, I have always been interested in experimental storytelling and love to tell that are personal and intimate in the films that I make.
In August, I made a VR experience called The Key which was an experiment in how to go back into your memories and having the opportunity to change them. In the experience viewer had to pick up certain objects or walk over to an area in order to move the narrative forward. This sounds a lot like a game, and the experience I had from people tried to play it like one. What I noticed is that when this happened, they missed out on a lot of the narrative and the experience didn’t have the impact it could have.
In terms of people’s satisfaction with the experience, I got mixed results, but for me this was the stepping stone to something bigger. What I learned is that in comparison to 360 video, where the users only has the ability to look around, interactive narratives allow the viewer the freedom to move through. This was a pivotal moment as it’s clear to me that I needed to dedicate my focus to figure out how to create a world and how to build a story around it.
What I need to keep reminding myself In VR, you are placing the viewer in moments and not just showing them a story through a screen. I want to make people feel those moments and interact with them. That for me is the future of storytelling that I want to explore and Circuit Rider is the next experience that we are building. In Circuit Rider, you are playing a game that you are trapped in and you get hacked out of it in order uncover a larger mystery.
If we are successful, people will get caught in the story and not want to leave until they uncover it. If we aren’t, we will still gain a lot of knowledge about how user interaction works that will certainly carry over to anything we make in the future. The point is to try and just do it.