In a previous post I identified some of the unsolved design issues that make VR a less than engaging storytelling platform, and questioned whether the global elite wearing headsets to look at refugees in a UN-sponsored virtual reality documentary, were experiencing an expansion of empathy, as claimed by one of the filmmakers, or simply a sense of excitement at the novelty of a new technological gadget. This interview with Gabo Arora, who c0-produced the project provides some useful context: that the VR experience was positioned as a high profile replacement for a cancelled appearance by Bono. It also offers a key detail about an important design intervention that Arora made in staging one part of the film. The glamour of VR may not last, but the design intervention — creating action that encircles the viewer — is a useful convention that is likely to become a staple of the evolving medium.
It is works better in the refugee camp (see 6:20 in), than in the Disney VR of the intro to the Lion King which disrupts the immersive effect of a meticulously choreographed, costumed, and lighted stage picture by allowing us to move around chaotically, revealing the strained and tawdry artifice behind the illusion. Perhaps this is a new convention in the making as well — unintentional here, but potentially quite powerful: to take a composed image, like the pseudo-African primitivist landscape of a Broadway musical, and expose its constructed and distorting character nature by turning into an explorable 3D space.
Is VR the appropriate way to engage sympathy for child refugees or are child refugees the appropriate content to expand the market for VR?
Empathy or Novelty?
Here is a film that was made for my participation in the the 2015 Future of Storytelling Summit.
Source: Future of Storytelling | 2015 Films
Among the games that flash by are Dys4ia, Blood and Laurels, Unmanned, Every Day the Same Dream, Framed, Walden, Her Story, Papers Please, and Game of Thrones: Iron from Ice
The interactive TV projects are from my Georgia Tech eTV Lab
A coda to my Last Word on Ludology v Narratology:
In this moment from the popular British sit-com Gavin and Stacey (BBC 2007-2010) — available now in the US on several streaming services including youtube and very worth watching — Nessa, a jaded woman of the world who now works in a small Welsh video arcade, explains why she is never bored watching customers play videogames:
This is the current draft (subject to some refinements and revisions) of this semester’s syllabus. Syllabus LMC6313_F15 v0811
Sam Barlow’s new story-game HER STORY uses database searching as a productive approach to interactive narrative. It demonstrates how the dramatic arts of script-writing and acting for the camera can be refined to create engrossing interactive storytelling. The story is made up of brief video excerpts from seven police interviews with the same woman, played brilliantly by Viva Seifert. The interactor is given 4 snippets to begin the investigation and then accesses others by typing key words into a search field. . The story is fixed and unchanging, and the case has long ago been solved, but the interactor is motivated to find out what happened by Barlow’s carefully structured storytelling and the power of Seifert’s performance.
Here are some of the techniques that make this story effective: