what I think distinguish the storytelling in film and VR is, for film, you are observant always, and you watch a story unfolding by someone else. But for VR, you are surrounded by the story itself, so the role of audience in the story becomes very interesting and vital.
From the article, I really agree on one point: tradeoff between interactivity and empathy. Sometimes, giving too much interactivity will distract audiences' attention, but just let them watch the story makes no difference with film.
Besides, some audiences like to move around and use controller, some prefer sitting and doing nothing but watching. I think this is a core question puzzling me always, and I couldn't figure it out.
The storyteller directs the viewer’s gaze through this situational content by using elemental cues, such as light, sound, and stage movement. The traditional notion of the fourth wall has been eliminated. 360 video and virtual reality present untapped storytelling models that are encapsulated by metaphysical qualities: existence and influence.
Any storyteller who wants to try their hand at VR content needs to consider space as a key narrative element. How does your story change depending on where the audience looks? How do you prompt users to engage with specific elements that are important to the plot line? How do you guide someone through space and time using a nonlinear format? These are the types of questions writers will need to grapple with in order to develop stories that make the most of virtual reality as a medium without sacrificing clarity or meaning.
Local agency is where you could control the outcomes of your own experience in small ways, but these small actions many have no real impact on the overall outcome of the story. In order to really change the course of the story, then you’d need to also have global agency. Most interactive VR experiences will probably have a dimension of local agency, but that doesn’t mean that you’re actions will necessarily have any consequence to the overall story that’s unfolding.
Adding gaze-based triggers within an experience could turn it into an “Observant Active” / “Ghost with Impact” experience. Or perhaps you might have limited interactivity with being able to explore an environment, but your interactivity has no real consequence to the story that’s unfolding. Exploring an environment would impact how you personally experience the story within the constraints of your local agency, but if this doesn’t change the story at all then you have no real global agency as to how the overall story unfolds.
But the pieces where I felt the most empathy were ones where I’m merely witnessing a scene unfold as if I were a ghost because there’s a different quality of experience when I’m being directly addressed as a character in the story. This seems to reinforce Eric Darnell’s thoughts that there is indeed a tradeoff between interactivity and empathy. Not having my ego involved in the story does indeed allow me to receive the story of other characters without worrying how I should respond. There’s nothing to do but just receive the story in an “Observant Passive” / “Ghost without Impact” experience.
Baobab Studios’ Eric Darnell made the distinction to me that that film is a medium where someone can share the story of an experience, whereas virtual reality is a medium where you can give someone an experience that they can generate their own stories from. This is a powerful insight, and it’s something that’s gets a lot of independent film storytellers really excited about the potential of VR.