VR Diaries: ‘6x9’ Was Very Real and Moving
The virtual reality story ‘6x9’ by the Guardian was the most powerful VR experience in terms of how I reacted in confinement — I felt scared and uncomfortable, as I would have in any enclosed space. It was very real to me. The most powerful part in particular was when I began floating, imagining what it must be like to go temporarily (or permanently) insane and begin seeing things when being stuck there for days or even years, instead of just several minutes.
The weakest part was that you never got to see a perspective from the outside, or any real human figures — but this was definitely a stylistic choice that didn’t bother me, for it augmented the feeling of being trapped all the more.
What I remembered most was when the narrator said that you could be sentenced for a year, but then for breaking a small rule — for example, having too much toilet paper — you could immediately get more time. So you could have entered with an one year sentence, and end up with five.
I feel the story was very moving, in terms of letting you imagine the possibilities of what being in solitary confinement could be like. If the story would have continued for several more minutes, I don’t know if I could have handled it — and these people are there for years, maybe even a lifetime.
My only technical issue was with the words on the wall. On one hand, I liked the effect of them going onto the wall while different voices uttered their own experiences — this overwhelming effect made my personal experience all the more confining and real. But on the other hand, I couldn’t pay attention to every piece of it because it was all going so fast.
The best practices I’d recommend for VR journalism based on this particular piece is to focus on one subject, like 6x9 did, and place you in the character’s shoes. This effect was so, so powerful. I actually don’t have anything I’d avoid from this piece. The use of space and special features — floating, the multiple voices, toilet dripping, blood dripping, writing on the wall — augmented the story flawlessly.
Overall, this is a very successful VR piece in terms of the user experience. The only difficult aspect for me was to actually relate to the characters, having had no experiences quite similar to this, but it, like the other VR war pieces, put my life into perspective in terms of how fortunate I am. But the piece most certainly did change my view on the subject matter — the only thing I really knew about solitary confinement was through television shows like “Orange is the New Black,” where being in solitary confinement is called “the shoe,” and the worst form of punishment. Living with human connection is the worst thing you could do to a person and evident from the VR piece, it truly is a horrific and inhumane experience beyond our imaginations.