In the same way cinema evolved over time, VR game developers will evolve their storytelling methods.
Words by Aidan Curtis
Something that gamers have wanted for a long time is the ability to become part of the game. And with the rise of virtual reality (VR) technology, this is slowly becoming possible.
Where is VR now?
VR hardware is still in its infancy and has the potential to become much more. Current hardware runs along the same lines: the user wears a headset that tracks head movements while using a controller to move in-game, with some devices like the HTC Vive having motion tracking to allow some degree of physical movement from the user.
The ultimate goal for VR, it seems, is a fully immersive experience that puts the player directly into the game. Pop culture has given a somewhat negative view of VR, with movies like The Matrix (1999) and anime series Sword Art Online (2012) showing the risks of getting trapped in virtual reality through VR headsets that put a person’s mind into a virtual world, leaving the body in a comatose state.
What’s on the horizon?
It’s reasonably safe to say we’ll end up with similar – yet improved – VR hardware in the not-so-distant future, and with that will come a whole new level of storytelling in games. Games like the Uncharted series and The Last of Us focus on very cinematic methods of telling stories, with gameplay in between to give the player some sense of control and involvement in the story. This, while effective on-screen, wouldn’t translate well to VR.
“If creators are going to tell their stories through VR games, they’re going to need a very player-driven interactive story.”
An open-world, free-roam game like Skyrim, on the other hand, benefits from the added level of player involvement that VR brings. So, keeping that in mind, if creators are going to tell their stories through VR games, they’re going to need a very player-driven interactive story without set cutscenes. This will also beget a need to take into account player dialogue and possibly even a level of artificial intelligence from non-player characters.
Do VR experiences need ethical guidelines?
As exciting as it is, future VR hardware will likely need a range of ethical and usage guidelines. There is a very real risk of people staying in a virtual reality for too long and suffering physical consequences, or struggling to differentiate between virtual and physical realities.
In the same way cinema evolved from merely placing a camera in front of a play on stage to the visual marvels we see today, VR is going to have to take its time to evolve its methods of storytelling through games. We can’t wait to see what developers come up with.
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