The Elusive Narrative

One of the least understood concepts in VR development is the idea of the narrative. We are finally moving beyond the traditional schema that has defined storytelling. The Listener-Teller paradigm, the idea that there is a static observer that experiences content, has been a constant for as long as humans have had social interaction. VR brings with it a new dynamic that has not been fully realized, and that is the idea of the listener contributing to the experience itself. No longer can a linear story stand the myriad ways a person’s curiosity might manifest itself. Instead it is up to the creators of content to populate their world with many branching paths of interaction and discovery in order to succeed. Existing principles of narrative are ripe to be re-written and new companies are being started all around the world with the sole purpose of further refining this enigma of a medium.

The most innovative experience curators are taking cues from the gaming industry, where obvious parallels lie. Games have established that the story, while a necessary component, should for the most part serve an ancillary role to the actual gameplay itself. A filmmakers task then becomes to strike the perfect balance between finding clever ways to direct the user’s attention and letting the user direct their focus wherever they see fit.

All this is not to say that traditional content will not have a place in Virtual Reality. Far from it. The most the consumer facing side of VR right now is mostly concentrated in 360 videos and other translations of traditional storytelling. A transitionary period is to be expected and is useful in exposing the medium to more of the general populace. Crafting the perfect narrative is an elusive task, and not one for which there are clear guidelines.

Happy Developing,
Rushil Reddy

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