Transmedia : Virtual Reality and the Swayze Effect by Jonathan Kramer

Jonathan Kramer

Virtual Reality and the Swayze Effect

This is an article EVERYONE must read especially those passionate or interested in VR. What's being posed here is a major element that requires innovative thinking to overcome. https://storystudio.oculus.com/en-us/blog/the-swayze-effect/ Taking the "Hare Brain Tortoise Mind" approach, we must look OUTSIDE of the industry to get the inspiration or solution. It's for this reason I continue casting my net to uncover innovative transmedia advocates. The future is NOW!

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Douglas Eugene Mayfield

As a writer of 'old form' scripts, I think the article identifies the key issue in moving from features which are viewed to features involving VR in which the viewer can affect the action/interact with the characters, human or otherwise. Looking at it from the standpoint of an 'outsider' who knows almost nothing about VR, I'd say that the advantage of VR is that the viewer can literally wade into the action. But as the article implies, that creates a serious problem for the story tellers. Stories benefit from a viewer's (or reader's) sense that what comes next is both surprising but also inevitable. Logically driven twists and turns are some of the best, most satisfying, story telling moments but that means that you, the writer or story creator, have carefully selected that ONE best possible choice. [ That's why, in theory, you get paid the big bucks. :) ] But in VR, one introduces the chaotic element of a viewer in the action making choices 'on the fly' which affect the story and the other characters. After all, you probably want this kind of interaction. If you don't have it, why go to all the time and trouble of doing VR? But if you do, how do you keep the story on track, prevent it from 'running right off the rails' because of decisions or choices made by the viewer? The writers of the article are wrestling with a very difficult problem. I don't have a good solution to propose so it will be interesting to see how they, or any other VR people, solve it. My feeling is that the problem will first be solved in the interactive world of gaming and then, based on that experience, VR will move on to short films and perhaps features.

Jonathan Kramer

Douglas.. all very good points you make. I view VR much as I do any digital storytelling approach, though as a major proponent of Transmedia, it offers a tremendous opportunity for audience immersion and engagement. I would say my biggest concern overall is over use of violence/shooting/science fiction which lend well to interactive but are often quite violent. Having played with the Samsung and Occulus headsets, all content was violent by nature which after a while gets very boring. BUT it's clear to me there's a HUGE opportunity to immerse the viewer in a world that bears resemblance to their real one where they get to BE someone else and create a path they take that might inspire their own in life. Stay tuned.

Douglas Eugene Mayfield

Jonathan. I will look for more updates on VR. Though I know very little about VR, I find it quite interesting. The experimentation going on with VR feels, by analogy, somewhat like the time just after sound became available to filmmakers. Apparently it took a while to work out what to do with it, but when that had been accomplished, the public obviously embraced it wholeheartedly. And being a sci-fi and action fan, I think that it will eventually work well there.

Jonathan Kramer

Lyse.. you're most welcome.. As I come across stories about new storytelling directions you can be assured they will be posted here. As to VR and film/transmedia there's so much opportunity with the catch being the best way to implement. As far as violence and story gamification goes, the interactive component is SO much deeper in VR it's shame to waste it using the visual 'guns'. Instead the viewer could play a role in the story as a character they create or Avatar where they're able to explore storyworlds that just might change their LIFE after viewing. This is our intention with transmedia projects. Are you working in Transmedia at all? If so we should chat sometime.

Douglas Eugene Mayfield

Lyse. My guess is that genre will 'play a role' here. If it's action with guns going off, etc. those fans may want to interact, grab a weapon and slay a monster, etc. If it's drama, rom-com, etc., those fans may be more 'Immerse me? Sure. But I'll leave the story to you.' Again, just a guess.

Jonathan Kramer

Lyse and Douglas.. the distinction between Transmedia and other formats is storyworld, a concept most don't seem to truly understand. This means that each platform narrative can stand on its own but when combined in the 'jigsaw puzzle' of the storyworld, the result is a FAR ore immersive experience. Krish Stott, founder of Bellyfeel UK offers this explanation which I'm sure you'll find of value: http://www.bellyfeel.co.uk/2014/09/transmedia-storyworlds-fact-or-fiction/

Douglas Eugene Mayfield

Jonathan, Interesting article. Thanks for posting. From the article 'Allowing the audience to make up part of the story and then publish for all to share is a new thing and is tremendously rewarding for creators and audience alike.' I found this a bit puzzling. Presumably for the audience to make up and publish part of the story, they would not be immersed in it. I have trouble imagining anyone being able to do both interact with the story and simultaneously be adding story content. If so, then that implies that while it may transmedia, it's not VR. Or am I misunderstanding?

Jonathan Kramer

@Lyse and @Douglas.. Since you're both interested in learning about Transmedia you owe it to yourselves to purchase a copy of Rob Pratten's latest book, "Getting Started in Transmedia Storytelling, 2nd edition"; it's available in Kindle for $10. Rob is the founder of Conducttr (conducttr.com), the ultimate web based tool for collaborative development, distribution and marketing of transmedia projects. As to Krish's article, what he refers to is UCG (User Generated Content). This is a commonly used interactive component where the user has the opportunity to have their content used in the storyworld and also is rewarded when/if its selected. It's the gamification of story, a crucial element to transmedia storytelling. You'll read about this in Rob's book. VR like film, TV, social media, gaming, mobile, blogs, comic books, animated series, episodic video games and others is a platform. It's FAR more immersive than the others as you know and therefore with certain storyworlds has tremendous implications for audience engagement. And that's what Transmedia is about; engaging, immersing and encouraging the target audience to be involved which is something they cannot do in film or other single media platforms.

Jonathan Kramer

Yes Lyse.. I completely agree that VR holds monstrous potential for storytelling alone. With the tons of money being poured into it now from film and gaming along with the mobile device manufacturers it's going to garner much attention for those interested. That said, I believe it may be a very gradual adoption rate due to the 'gear' needed. I doubt we'll see people at the local Starbucks walking around with the headsets anytime soon. This is why it's my belief that we must focus on mobile since the largest audience are the millennial generation. And they're social, mobile and selective about content due to the massive amounts available.

Jonathan Kramer

Well here's an update that spells for more possibilities: http://goo.gl/hkRE81 I would love to be part of or find a way as an adjunct for developing VR projects that will subtly change people's lives rather than put them in a battle zone. Frankly not a day goes by anymore when there isn't something in the news that bears strong resemblance to the films, games and other violence driven themes most projects embrace. VR offers SO much opportunity that it's just a matter of creative brainstorming and the equipment. At the Transmedia SF Meetup in October I met one of the film specialists from Jaunt VR which is mentioned in this story.

Douglas Eugene Mayfield

Lyse. If I understand your comment, what you're saying is that a lot of investors/entrepreneurs are spending time, effort, money to drop people into a VR world but don't what to do with them when they get them there. I think this is an accurate assessment. If you drop a 'gamer' into a battlefield and leave weapons lying around, chances the G. will pick up something and start swinging/shooting whatever. But if the story is more complex, how to build in/allow for participant choice is a real problem. I don't think most people are going to want to simply drop into the VR world and (unless it's some kind of travelogue) stand around and watch.

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