Jean-Noël Chiganne
Jean-Noël Chiganne
Virtual Reality & Interactive Storytelling Specialist
Jun 10, 2019 5 min read

5 Reasons Why Virtual Reality and Interactive Storytelling are a perfect match

Hi everyone, this is Jean-Noël from Immersive Consulting. Today we are going to explore 5 reasons why Virtual Reality and Interactive Storytelling are a perfect match. For me, if there are two pillars to immersive storytelling, that’s these two little guys.

Ok, let’s explain why these two fields are made for each other.

1 - Presence Reinforcement

First Presence Reinforcement. To put it simply, the goal of Virtual Reality is to make you feel present in a universe which is not the reality. Presence is when your brain is convinced that the reality it perceives is the one it should take care of. For instance, if you are immersed in virtual reality, and then someone makes a big noise near you in real life and you don’t realize it, it means that your are actually “present” in the virtual universe.

To achieve this objective, virtual reality uses many tools. The most visible one, which is the one we hear the most about, is to deceive your senses: vision, hearing, the sense of touch etc.

However, there are other ways to make you feel present, meaning to make your brain believe that the virtual reality you are in is actually the reality. Indeed, and we will talk about it in another article, narration is a key notion in cognition and plays a central role in the way you think and analyze what is happening or happened to you.

When you add narrative coherence to your universe, and this coherence persist and can be reinforced by your actions, you increase this universe’s ability to make you feel present.

That’s exactly what Interactive Storytelling adds to Virtual Reality. As it tries to take into account your actions into a well-formed narration, they become more meaningful. The perception-action loop is reinforced, and therefore, your sensation to be present too.

2 - Multi-User

The second point is about multi-user. One of the most exciting use case of VR is multi user experiences, meaning the sharing of the same virtual experience by multiple people. Amongst other things, it allows friends each at the other end of the world to meet as if they were never separated and spend a good time together.

Interactive Storytelling takes a close look at this multi-user problem. How to present a story - information - to multiple people at the same time? How to make them share a same adventure in a powerful and exciting way? The use case is not only entertainment, because, generally speaking, narration also implies an efficient way to present information.

3 - Robots are not ready

Third point: Robots are not ready. Do you remember Westworld, this ultimate fantasy of interactive storytelling? If you remember well, in Westworld, everything happens in a gigantic real theme park, inhabited by robots acting as characters of the story.

Yet, nowadays, we are at a stage where robots are far from being ready to take this kind of role, with the quality level seen in the tv show. They cannot be used to create plausible and coherent characters able to perform all kinds of activities.

Well, in virtual reality, it’s now possible, thanks in particular to the advances in real time 3D from the past several years. You can, today, in virtual reality, have visually coherent, engaging characters, able, thanks to 3D animation, of many kinds of epic and touching actions that interactive storytelling could think of.

4 - Infinite space for infinite stories

4th point: Infinite space for infinite stories. The main interest of interactive storytelling is to be able to generate and manage a lot of stories, reacting to players actions. In Westworld, again, we can see that one narrative tool often used is the size of the parc, allowing to give a sense of exploration, discovery and diversity that the park’s writers will use.

It’s obviously a challenge in terms of space to occupy. It’s first an economical challenge for the park’s managers and stakeholders, but also a logistical problem: space is not infinite and the total amount of large enough usable areas for this kind of entertainment is finite too.

Virtual Reality allows to operate a theoretically infinite space in a far smaller real one. It allows writers to see in big in the interactive stories they create.

5 - Staging

And finally, Staging. Interactive storytelling is interested in staging, meaning how to present a story to the users. Which character should talk, be in front, in the background ? Which place is the most impactful for an event to unfold?

Solving all these questions is indeed extremely useful in virtual reality. Virtual reality relies a lot on multimodality, that is to say the principle of presenting information in different ways talking to different senses. Thus, staging helps to decide according to which modality we should present a piece of information, but also helps to structure this piece of information in space and time.

And this is not a static problem, as the user can interact with the simulation, some good staging decisions at the start of the experience could become not so good after some user’s actions. That’s where the real time feature of interactive storytelling shines.

Here we are! I hope you are now convinced that interactive storytelling and virtual reality are a perfect match! One could almost consider that interactive storytelling is a component of virtual reality, but that would be to forget that interactive storytelling can be used in the real world too, being in LARPing, immersive theater etc.

Thanks for reading this article. If you liked it, do not hesitate to share or to get in touch!

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