Five Tips From The VR Writers' Room

Five Tips From The VR Writers' Room

Composing convincing narrative experiences within VR is a hot topic and makes a regular appearance at conferences this year. Indeed, Tanya Laird of Digital Jam has hosted panels on this and related topics both at our own VR Connects and at the MR Summit in London. Once again, her line-up for the VR Writers Room at VR World Congress was excellent.

The panel covered the future of creative storytelling for immersive entertainment formats, providing different viewpoints and expertise beyond just games. It drew on people from the arts, animation and theme park industries. "Innovation always come from outside expertise – it's the stuff we don't know that we don't know," said Laird, introducing Resh Sidhu (Framestore visual effects), Tom Nelson (Royal Opera House), Rob Yescombe (freelance games writer), Simon Barratt (Cooperative Innovations VR gaming), Kim Majkut (Great Guns film production), and Kevin Williams (out-of-home leisure entertainment consultant).

"We are," explained Laird, "in search of naive experts – people who know their stuff but not necessarily in this field." Cross-industry learning is essential for a nascent field like VR and the panel had plenty to say. Such a large group of people means there was a pressure on time and in fact they barely covered a handful of questions, but the important topics of emotion and experience were covered.

Read on for five tips we picked up from the VR Writers' Room...

Click here to view the list »
  • 1 Timing

    Williams said that in theme park and group experiential activities, "We have a requirement for a three-minute experience." Part of this when it comes to VR is motion sickness. "Fatigue and the issues of sickness are important; three minutes is the usual magic time for people dropped into a virtual environment. After that time, people get fatigue and uncomfortable. Most experiences you see in the theme park and VR park environment tend to fall into that boundary."

  • 2 Terminology

    Hype can be a bad thing for growing VR, if people aren't clear what they're going to experience. People are using terms like VR to mean everything from passive 360-video movies up to hardcore 3D games. "There is a spectrum of interactivity," says Laird. "People tend to think VR means HMD but that's not always the case."

    Williams again: "I work in immersive entertainment, finding ways to immerse people in synthetic environments. At the moment I'm sceptical about 'VR' when it's a clunky headset on your bonce. In a few years time, though, it might be AR on a pair of glasses."

  • 3 Emotions

    Kim Majkut, bringing her film industry knowledge, told the crowd, "You have to figure out what you want your audience to feel. VR is a tool to tell stories - another tool to make you laugh or cry. It takes you somewhere you never imagined. Good VR is something unforgettable. They make you feel something; they affect you in a way that watching a movie on a tablet does not right now. You're present, being part of that world."

    Rob Yescombe added, "VR is a space where art can still happen. I feel a bit disappointed at the idea of just using the same techniques as we've seen in videogames for the last 30 years."

  • 4 Immersion

    A similar sentiment was echoed by Tom Nelson whose background is the very-different high-brow stage. "Opera and ballet operate behind the proscenium arch. And now people like Punch Drunk are saying this is stupid! You came up what that arch in the 1700s - there must be other ways to do it. We've gone to the roundhouse and done stuff in the round. But people are seeing the potential of VR to give our creatives a new palette of tools, coupling them with amazing storytellers from games and the VFX world who are great with non-linear narratives, and taking big risks."

    Rob Yescombe again: "People sometimes still bring to bear the techniques of filmic narrative to a medium that disagrees with it. In film, every shot is 'look at this now!' but that's the worst thing that VR can do."

  • 5 Social VR

    And the hot topic is still the social aspect of VR. "Who here has not met another human in VR?" asked Yescombe, and half the room's hands went up. "It's the next thing," he said. "That will blow your mind." Simon Barratt, who is working on a cooperative role-playing fantasy game, agreed: "That's the thing that makes good memories. You build memories together."

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Dave is Steel Media's Chief Operations Officer. He gets involved in all areas of the business, from front page editorial to behind-the-scenes planning. He began his career in games and entertainment journalism back in the 1990s when Doom came on four floppy disks. Please contact him with any general queries about Pocket Gamer, Blockchain Gamer and Steel Media's other sites and events.