Creating More Fulfilling Stories in VR

Several years ago, when I first heard about The Drowned Man, I was enthralled with the concept. The performance is based around the audience walking around a house and witnessing parts of the play, allowing them to put the pieces together and experience parts of the narrative as it unfolds, moving on when they feel they’ve seen enough of a certain room (also known as promenade theatre). This allows the audience members to experience the play again and again, each time gaining a new perspective and understanding on what’s happening. Personally, I’ve heard anecdotes of people “watching” The Drowned Man over fifty times without getting bored, which doesn’t surprise me.

Last week, a colleague linked me to Jessica Brillhart’s presentation on VR & Cinema from Google I/O 2016. In it, she talks about traditional cinema and how, as story-tellers, we need to break out of the classic idea of having a single focus point when creating a virtual reality experience. In it, she talks about one VR experience in particular where the viewer watches a young girl named Kennedy practice playing the violin in her bedroom. Without a doubt, Kennedy is the focal point of the video however, if one were to turn around, they would see her parents in the doorway, looking proud. Brillhart makes the point that if we focus on Kennedy, we’re not losing anything from the experience, but turning to see her parents adds to the story.


Virtual reality film makers can learn something from The Drowned Man, other promenade theatre pieces, and videos like Kennedy playing the violin. While it’s important that the viewser comes away with a solid understanding of the story behind what they experienced, virtual reality is handing us the opportunity to further build it out and add details which aren’t possible with traditional cinema. We can (and should!) build worlds around our stories, our characters, and the elements that resulted in this world. We can provide the details that give our audience reasons to come back, to provide more insight and background into the story we’ve created.

When you tell a good story, your audience will be hungry for more details. Having two characters give each other a knowing glance while a third (the focus of this scene) sololloques or providing proof of one character’s dedication to her work through the years of research that we see on her shelf (while our focal point is her finishing the final touches on it) just provides a deeper understanding of what we’ve created. Virtual reality challenges story tellers to consider the whole world that their characters are living in and not just the current frame or the present moment.

As virtual reality technology becomes increasingly accessible, it provides us with the opportunity to bring audiences into the worlds we’ve created and fill in details, backstories, and relationships in ways which were never possible before. It gives us a chance to immerse our audience on more than just a visual level. It’s a truer, fuller experience where every character’s personality is added to, even if just in the periphery, where every object has a meaning and a story, even if that isn’t the point of the story we’re telling right now. By embracing this idea we can create better stories, and better virtual reality experiences, for our audience.

#Thisisme – 31

Well today is the last day of the #Thisisme challenge. I’m pretty impressed I made it all the way and thank you to Devyn who did it with me.

For my last day, I’ll throw it back to my confession at the beginning of the month.

I confess that it’s become a lot easier to write about myself and post these publicly. While I’m still not thrilled about my writing, I find it much easier to throw out 100-200 words about myself and not be self conscious about how the writing comes off and what people think.

I hope that blogging is something I’ll keep up with after this month but that I can write about things which matter to me (though maybe less directly about myself).

Thank you everyone who spent the month reading these. It felt good to know I had an audience out there (however small).

#Thisisme – 30

My partner suggested that I take one of these entries to write about something that’s changed in my over the past few years. Unfortunately, it’s difficult to look back and objectively see how I’ve changed, so instead I asked him what’s changed about me.

He said I’ve become a lot more obsessive about making sure I get my work outs in. This got me thinking about why and I realized it comes back to the fact that I’m terrified of getting older. I know it happens to everyone but I try to take care of myself enough that I’ll (somehow) slow down the process.

In the past few years, I’ve changed by becoming more regimented about things that I do and steps that I take to keep myself healthy. I try to get a decent amount of sleep and I try to not strain myself if I’m injured.

I think that all of this comes from two sides of the same coin: it isn’t good that I’ve become so intense about making sure I do these preventative things to take care of myself but it’s good that I am somewhat aware of ways I can take better care of my body.

To the original point though, I do need to learn to be less hard on myself when I miss doing something that would have been good for me and take it all in stride.

#Thisisme – 29

This confession may surprise people whom I haven’t spent much time with lately, but is something I’ve practiced for awhile now. It’s that I don’t really drink.

I’ve had a glass of wine once every few months, but I definitely don’t get drunk anymore and I’m not interested in drinking any more alcohol than that.

There’s several reasons for this but the most prominent is that I tend to forget things really quickly when I’m drinking. So, I can do or say something and even a minute later I’ve completely forgotten about it. This has caused me a lot of anxiety in the past when I stress out, wondering if I did something foolish when drinking the night before.

Luckily, for the most part, I’ve been pretty good but the stress that it causes me the next day isn’t worth it to me. So for the most part, I choose to be a non-drinker.

#Thisisme – 28

I have a very lighthearted topic to write about today (at least to me) which reveals a pretty big part of myself that most people don’t suspect. That is is my music taste is pretty stereotypically terrible.

I love listening to Pitbull, High School Musical, Aqua, remixes of top 40 songs, One Direction and the like. That isn’t to say I don’t like other “good” music but in general, my preference is to listen to something catchy which I can easily sing along to.

This tends to surprise a lot of people when they find this out about me. Apparently I don’t “look” like my music taste is so base (whatever that means) but I am completely unashamed of it being the way that it is.

I’m not sure what my “criteria” is for me to find a song enjoyable but when I do find something I like, I don’t hesitate or feel embarrassed to embrace it.

#Thisisme – 27

There’s something I can’t believe I haven’t talked about yet but Devyn posted about ages ago: I am a feminist.

I know that that word can sometimes have a tricky meaning behind it so I used to struggle with using it to identify myself. But having become comfortable in my own skin, I can very confidently declare that I believe gender should not limit a person’s basic rights and the way they they’re treated.

This includes intersectionality, long standing forms of societal sexism (and I say sexism because I think people of every gender have experienced it), and even basic human rights. I very strongly believe in human equality.

This post is not a place to debate the validity of any experiences or right and, as a recent Cracked article said better than I ever could: “If a movement — regardless of what it represents — ever feels like it’s losing ground by showing empathy, then something has gone seriously fucking awry.”

#Thisisme – 26

When I was younger, I used to play a game called Creatures where you hatch little animals from their eggs and help them grow. You can influence what they do through slapping and tickling them, but they didn’t have to listen to you.

This drove me crazy.

I’m a bit of a control freak and trying to do something that I’ve planned out and feel will work out a certain way, only to have it fall apart because humans are unpredictable, is extremely irritating for me.

I sometimes try to plan my life this way and it doesn’t work out. I end up tired and frustrated because, try as I might, there’s no way to account for the personalities, experiences, and feelings of the other people involved, who will have influence on the outcome.

I’m learning to try to relax a bit and have some flexibility in my expectation so that when things don’t go “to plan” it doesn’t stress me out as much. But this is something I’m still working towards and have a ways to go.

#Thisisme – 25

Devyn and I officially have 1 week of the #Thisisme challenge left! I think we’ve both been doing really well and I know they’re written some awesome, interesting posts, so please check out Devyn’s blog.

Today I want to talk about my father. He and I have never been very close as our personality types are pretty different (as previously mentioned, I am introverted, which is not quite how I’d describe him).

However, my dad is pretty sick and has been for a few years. It’s gotten worse over the last few months (though sometimes it’s hard to tell since he isn’t very talkative about it).

I confess that I’m worried.



#Thisisme – 24

Today’s confession feels like it should be embarrassing for me, but it’s something I completely embrace about myself.

I love watching trashy television!

Jersey Shore, Take Me Out, Teen Mom, Catfish, Kitchen Nightmares; these are all shows I’ve watched and all of those types of shows where I can turn off my thoughts and just watch something. I find it enjoyable and it makes up a good portion of the television watching I do.

Most of the time when I’m watching them, I find myself both delighted and angry. I question why the people on the shows are acting the way that they do and it infuriates me that they aren’t make better decisions. But I don’t stop watching after that. It just fuels the enjoyment for me.

So next time you find me relating something to an old Jersey Shore episode, remember I’m not ashamed of my terrible television watching and you should give them a try too.