Books: words were crafted together to build characters and worlds for us, telling us rich stories that fired our imagination, stories that have endured for many years. Reading evolved our own understanding of language, the nature of storytelling and indeed, our own human nature.
Cinema: opened a window for us to look into and observe sights, people and visuals that had previously only lived in our dreams. It showed us there was a world out there filled with so may different kinds of people and costumes, it evolved our ability to understand or “read” moving pictures. To gather in large groups and share emotional experiences together. It gave us superstars and impacted massively on popular culture.
TV: with television, the window to the world was now in people’s homes, news reports brought far-flung locations to your living room, orchestras and musical performers could serenade you over dinner; exotic, dangerous and rare animals revealed themselves in front of you; with long-running soaps like Coronation Street we discovered that we could invest time in getting to know and care about characters. Television (at least at one point) was something that made us smarter about the world we live in.
Smartphones: with these handy trinkets, we have the world at our fingertips. Anything we want to know, anywhere we want to see, we just ask Google, Siri or Cortana. Youtube has brought us footage of almost anything we can imagine – for better or worse and we have apps to improve our lives as well as waste our time. Smartphones have made us more demanding if not more impatient. Everyone is able to communicate with the rest of the world because now everyone a voice whether or not there’s anything important or intelligent to say. We expect information right away. Instead of just characters and environments, it has exposed us to philosophical ideas and political beliefs.
So what is this? Some kind of evolution? An evolution in what? To me, it’s a broad evolution across storytelling, how we tell stories and how we consume stories and what we’ve come to expect from the journey that a story takes us on.
An evolution of how we’ve told stories – from gathering around campfires to tell tales to large High Definition TVs, demonstrates a desire to make our stories more visceral and more real, to have our imaginations do a bit less work; a desire to live in the story.
VR is the next and most powerful stage in this evolution; it will allow us to embody a character or an environment like nothing ever has.
VR= embodiment= empathy= unparalleled connection with a story
I’ve head VR described as an “empathy machine” and this is a great description of the medium’s ability. If this generation of VR storytellers can harness this ability, they will surely create worlds, characters and experiences that connect with audiences in a unique and unprecedented way. Already there’s been strong pieces that have resonated with me and others; Hallelujah from Within, My Brother’s Keeper, Dear Angelica, Pearl… and that’s just a few. VR and the promises that it’s making is giving artists and storytellers the opportunity to create a dimension where amazing, unbelievable things can happen every day.
Developments such as intuitive hand controllers and haptic suits will combine with elements like Six Degrees of Freedom (6DOF) and improved interactivity to lead us into the rabbit hole even further. When we can interact with the environment and the characters within it, when we can not only passively absorb a story but influence it, we truly embody the world that’s given to us. Maybe a day will soon come where we can’t see the line between the story the real world. Maybe a day will soon come where we opt to reside within our virtual world and live the stories we want to.