The Future is Now… In My Living Room with Virtual Reality

I’m no VR expert, I wish, but what I am is a nerdy VR consumer. I am your favourite person with all the target demographics: gamer, avid reader of fiction and non-fiction, movie goer (VIP, 3D and 4D are all under my belt), subscriber to streaming services, I love to attend attractions like museums, art galleries, amusement parks, concerts and festivals, use social media everyday… Basically I can’t live my life without a good story. Not only that, but I am also an early adopter: give me toys! So it was a no brainer that when the new Playstation VR came out I got it asap. Immersive stories? Stepping into the worlds of Batman?! HELLO YES PLEASE!

When it first came out, there were limited “experiences” (as they were marketed). Full games were not ready yet. Arkham VR was the most anticipated in my household (my partner is a huge gamer too), even though it was only one chapter/level we had to have it since it was a bonus to the original Arkham trilogy of games, with the original voice talents attached to it too. We were stoked: Mark Hamill and Kevin Conroy’s last kick at the Batman world and this time, you could step into Gotham with the VR visor. I loved the 360° world (the Bat Cave alone!), I loved the sound scape (rain in Gotham is a must), I loved the simple gestures for gameplay so it was more about the story than anything else. I was Batman, and the act of pulling out my grappling gun or throwing a batwing was so satisfying I teared up a bit. But then something happened I didn’t count on: it was overwhelming.

I remember hearing about how in the 1920s when “talkies” were introduced that the audience was aghast at hearing and seeing people on screen. Some people were overwhelmed and had to leave the theatre! Then later when technicolour was introduced, similar things happened. I felt the same way: being inside Arkham Asylum, opening a sliding peephole and finding the Joker staring at me I literally jumped back and stumbled on my couch. I laughed initially, thinking “this is intense”, getting nervous for my Big Bad encounter… And then when Joker provoked me and the door was ready to open I was EXACTLY like that 1920s person running from the theatre: it was too much! I ripped off the visor shouting, “NOPE! Nope nope nope nope.” And handed it to my partner to try, “this is too much, I can hear him breathing in my ear, it’s – it’s too much!”

I invest, I want to be immersed in the story, I empathize easily – so maybe this is just me, but that short gameplay made me excited for things to come. If a short, one chapter game can get me to the point of freaking out by being in the same jail cell as an infamous fictional character, can you imagine what full stories and new characters ready to take me on a journey with them in a full 360° virtual world will do to my head and heart?

I’m also interested to see how VR arcades like House of VR here in Toronto will develop, where one would experience this all in a public space, because right now it seems so personal. I screamed, I laughed out loud, my partner cried when he “sat” in the X Wing for the first time in VR… I wonder, if like movies, we will want to play some VR games in public but others in the comfort of our home with a box of Kleenex. To me dynamic between the evolution of VR hardware and storytelling is very similar to the big screen at movie theatres and how films evolved. That’s the next step, it has to be, to use VR to tell stories instead of 2D movie screens – heck we already have 4D with 3D glasses and moving seats with simulated rain for goodness sake!

So for those building VR games, here’s a note from one of your biggest fans and future buyer: tell me a story, one that is so immersive, so engaging that it’s impossible to feel outside as an audience member but more like I’m part of the story. I want in to your story, but not as a bystander, as a member of it.

Adrianna  is *no campfire required’s Community Builder + Digital Storyteller + Story Keeper. She’s the social media geek connecting you with the company’s products, stories, and community.