Saturday, February 11, 2017

Video Game Creative Directors: 3 Ways to Use VR for Immersive Storytelling

In the gaming industry, VR has emerged as a powerful tool to enhance game play and story experiences. As a graduate student in the Northwestern University Medill IMC program with an interest in gaming and new technology, I have found two articles that highlight two projects that combine VR with powerful human emotion to deliver immersive artistic visions.

Daniel Terdiman (@GreeterDan) reports for Fast Company about Asteroids!, a new project from Baobab Studio that debuted at Sundance 2017. In the 10-minute adventure game, the audience explores a space ship with two aliens, Mac and Cheez. These new friends communicate in a foreign alien language, but use vocal cues and intonation to convey emotions. During the tour, Cheez is accidentally knocked out of the ship and it is up to the viewer to initiate a rescue mission. Or not. The game's progression and structure depends on fostering the viewer's empathy.

Source: Unsplash via Pexels

Another project, Oculus’ “Dear Angelica,” approaches empathy in VR from a different perspective. As Josh Constine (@JoshConstine) reports for TechCrunch, the project combines brilliant animation with vivid storytelling. A girl reminisces about the lessons her mother, an actress, taught her about bravery. Brushstroke by brushstroke, the mother's movies envelop the viewer. The distinct, fluid art style brings to life the emotions of grief and nostalgia. Oculus used Quill, a VR animation tool, to bring the story of a mother’s memories to life, adding a tangible element of time to the work. This emotionally-charged experience is steeped in VR from production to delivery.

After reviewing these 2 articles and based on my studies in VR and IMC, here are three ways to make the most impactful art with this powerful technology:
  • Start Experimenting Now - VR blurs the line between video games and movies. Now is the time to tap into that mire to create experiences that reach people’s emotional core.
  • Interaction Leads to Success - While all stories expect a certain level of engagement, both these projects provide the viewer more agency than a traditional movie, leading to resonant experiences.
  • Incorporate Natural Conversation - The characters in both projects react to conversations and situations in a natural way. This level of interaction enhances authenticity, empathy, and immersion.
VR has come a long way in the realm of experiential storytelling. As a creative director, these projects serve as examples of how VR can be used as a vehicle for introducing empathy to interactive art.

Jo Ladzinski is studying Integrated Marketing Communications at the Northwestern University’s Medill School. She has an interest in video games and technology with experience in digital media, social marketing, and publishing. Connect with her on Twitter or LinkedIn.

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