Virtual Reality to tell stories

Storytelling is part of human culture. We count on to entertain ourselves, leave us alone, frighten, remember and learn. This has happened at least since human history began to be documented, and there is evidence that ancient homo sapiens based their rituals on tales that memorized their ancestors and prepared them for future hunting.

The invention of cinema has revolutionized not only how we capture images and how we project them in motion, but also how we tell stories. While literature has always given us the possibility of listening to a narrator – or even what a character is thinking – and the theater has enabled us to witness characters in conflict, the cinema brings both. With the seventh art, we can “see” or “feel” the thoughts of the characters, even when they do not speak what is in their mind (of course, only good actors can communicate what they think without using words).

This characteristic of the cinema guarantees the catharsis, or at least the momentary immersion on the part of the spectator, in the history of a third person. In other words, we are part of a character’s life and we can see his story through his own eyes (especially when the camera itself shows us what he sees). Thus, we create empathy with others and see the world differently.

Now in 2018, virtual reality technology becomes more popular than ever, especially as the experience of being transported into a new world becomes more “realistic.” However, this technology can be used both to tell the story of others and to turn the attention of those who use it to themselves.

Unlike the literature and cinema, the virtual reality viewer always occupies the central place in the plot or in the video game games. That is, we always witness the VR plot with our own eyes, not with the eyes of other characters. This does not happen even in the theater, where at least we occupy a specific but not central place in the audience. In virtual reality, we are the center of the universe.

This has led directors like Steven Spielberg to point out the danger of technology to the big screen. Thus, we can not see this new media only as a development of cinema, but as a technology still in the beginning of its growth and that can take any direction. The danger pointed out by Spielberg comes about when VR becomes similar to social media, where each one accesses first-person sites and always in order to pay attention to himself (or try to attract attention to himself).

Even when someone gets excited about some post on some social media, for example, he just shares the post or writes some comments to express what he feels, something that can not be compared to the possibility that the cinema gives of becoming other people, even for a few hours (real people, in case of documentaries).
It is still possible, however, to tell stories in VR. Although the spectator’s ability to look anywhere makes it impossible to use traditional cinema features (such as the choice between a close-up and a general plan, or even the framing), other strategies, such as lighting and sound, can direct the attention of those who use it so that filmmakers and virtual reality artists can tell stories and make the viewer empathize with others in a stronger way.

Films like Pearl by Patrick Osborne or NanoEden, of my own, follow this strand and create stories for technology. The future will probably be a mix of virtual reality projects that feed into the viewer’s central plane and projects that try to lead the same to feel what different characters feel through stories that somehow increase empathy with others.

(This article original language is portuguese. This translation was made with Google Translate)

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