VR games mature together with the technology, cinematic VR does not

I think my fascination for first-person storytelling started when I was about 8 years old. Around this age, I watched and thought along with games like Myst and Riven, which my father used to play on our CD-i player. We loved the first person point of view (POV). We could walk around in those worlds together for hours, or so it felt. My father passed away in february 2013. He never got to try VR, but I think he would have loved it as much as I do.

The guy who made this walkthrough of Myst is my age. He also used to play it with his father when he was 8 years old.

First person games have already existed for quite some time now. They have developed together with other kinds of games, as over time the technology made more things possible. The last game me and my dad played together was ‘Heavy Rain’. We played it when he was sick and we finished it just in time. The game wasn’t in first-person POV, but it was a first-person narrative. I remember how overwhelmed he was by how real the world and the story of this game looked and felt on his PS3.

Virtual Reality is close to being the ultimate first person medium. Games have more experience with this POV. Therefore, VR is easier to be awesome right away when applied to games. Two weeks ago I was in New York City. I visited the Madame Tussauds, just to see the Ghostbusters hyper-reality experience. It was great. A first-person game in it’s purest form. Me and the second player could walk around in multiple rooms and we even went up a floor in an elevator. Of course there wasn’t actually a second floor, but it looked and felt perfectly real. We could also see exactly what the other person was doing. We both held a gun that felt the same way it looked and that gave resistance when we fired. The vest I had on even let me feel the ghost that went right through me. When we finally defeated the big bad marshmallow man, it even smelled sweet!

So, game developers already know exactly what to do with a first-person POV, but filmmakers do not. Most filmmakers are used to writing third-person narratives. Many Cinematic VR experiences struggle with this. It is still possible to tell a third-person narrative from a first-person perspective, but I think VR as a medium asks to be used differently. The way I look at it, a first-person POV is strongest with a first-person narrative. This means that the viewer should be watching through the eyes of one of the characters of the story, possibly even the main character.

When a first-person POV ís used in a movie, most of the times it is only in one scène and there is always a reason why. A good example is the movie ‘Being John Malkovich’. In this movie people are able to put themselves into the body of actor John Malkovich. When they do, what they see is showed with a first-person POV of the actor. This is done to give the viewer a better understanding about what happens to these people. It has a purpose.

One of the best uses of a first-person point of view in a movie must be ‘Being John Malkovich’.

By definition, Virtual Reality shows a story from a first-person perspective. Therefore, I think that every story told in this medium should have a reason to use this perspective. Otherwise, why wouldn’t you just make a movie out of it?

In my next blog, I will be writing more about first-person narratives for VR. I hope you enjoyed reading my theories about VR storytelling. If you did, you might want to follow me so you can read the sequels. If you can’t wait, please check out some of my earlier blog posts. They are worth getting some new attention. Thank you!

Earlier posts:
VR storytelling blog #1 — The horseless carriage syndrome
VR storytelling blog #2 — How to make your story relevant to VR
VR storytelling blog #3 — Transparent immediacy
VR Storytelling blog #4 — This is what will create the imagery of VR
VR Storytelling blog #5 — Do we need totems in virtual reality?