An ‘Amuse-Bouche at Best': 360° VR Storytelling in Full Perspective

An ‘Amuse-Bouche at Best': 360° VR Storytelling in Full Perspective

Paul Moody (Brunel University London, United Kingdom)
Copyright: © 2017 |Pages: 9
DOI: 10.4018/IJEP.2017070104
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Abstract

Much has been written about the function of narrative in virtual reality (VR) productions (Aylett & Louchart, 2003; Aylett et al, 2005; Ryan, 2001; 2005; 2008; 2009), but the role of the audience, and the relative degree of control that they have over the content, has led some scholars to believe that there is an ontological problem with describing VR in narrative terms. This article investigates some of these assumptions, via an analysis of an undertheorised aspect of VR that has emerged in recent years – the 360° film. It argues that 360° film represents a much more important aspect of VR than has been previously recognised. In so doing, the article establishes this medium as an important field of study, and argues that ultimately, it will be the commercial infrastructure for this content which will define the parameters of immersive storytelling.
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Introduction

The 2016 launch of the Playstation VR headset arguably marked the moment in which virtual reality (VR) technology entered fully into mainstream public consciousness (Lynch, 2017). Despite this, it remains a form in flux and in which there is little agreement as to what constitutes the limitations and possibilities of the medium. One such area that is especially problematic in this regard is how to discuss narrative in a VR context. Much has been written about the function of narrative in VR (Aylett, 1999; Aylett & Louchart, 2003; Aylett et al, 2005; Ryan, 2001; 2005; 2008; 2009), but the role of the audience, and the relative degree of control that they have over the content, has led some scholars to believe that there is an ontological problem with describing VR in narrative terms. As several authors have noted, there has been a ‘tendency to consider narrative in VR in relation to film or television’ (Aylett & Louchart, 2003, p. 2), but this approach appears to provide an insufficient explanation of the narrative possibilities of the medium. Pimentel and Texeria’s definition of VR as an ‘immersive, interactive experience generated by a computer’ (Pimentel & Texeira, 1993), seems far removed from the inherently passive pleasures afforded by most traditional film productions, and this conundrum has ensured that the field has remained relatively underdeveloped in narrative terms, with content tending to be limited to short form entertainment.

This article is an attempt to investigate some of the assumptions made about VR narratives, via an analysis of an undertheorised aspect of VR that has emerged in recent years – the 360° film. It argues that 360° film represents a much more important aspect of VR than has been recognised, with currency with both audiences and practitioners, to the extent that it is a potential solution to some of the issues that VR poses to narrative construction. It argues that this medium is an important field of study, and one that presents the best opportunity for VR as a mass entertainment form in the near future.

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