How Virtual Reality can broaden our approach to storytelling? This Mixed Reality Instalation had the audience member's body involved. In a case like that, storytelling includes more than a story narrative. It includes elements of the User’s Experience Design. It is interesting to notice that this term is not so widely used in the Arts, but more concerning web design, gaming or programming. It is a term of programmers. However, in VR, elements of the experience that we would attribute to User Experience design, have a substantial impact on the audience’s perception, and such they should be in synergy with the story. Does the User, have the ability to interact with the world or just passively experience it by looking around? Are they being themselves in the headset, or embodying a character? How protected or exposed do they feel in regards to their surroundings? Are they building something or trying to survive a catastrophe? All those design aspects of the User’s experience, in a narrative piece, would end up in a completely different journey on behalf of the audience. They would end up in a different story.
Setting up the actions and reactions of the User and the world seems a crucial aspect of VR but also relevant to live performance. Due to living performing experience, I have a personal interpretation and understanding of what it means to be present. To be able to let go but at the same time be perceptive to react in whatever is happening in this very moment. So, it was interesting to dip into how I understand presence, and what kind of tactics I would use to endorse it in the audience. This circles back in storytelling as in a live performance, presence, is part of the dramaturgy and as such, part of the storytelling itself. The feeling of “this is happening, in front of you, at this very moment” is part of the story you are told. Something very similar is happening in Virtual Reality. An animated or recorded scene, or a responsive environment that the User can influence using their controllers, are used to endorse this sense of presence that will immerse her.
During this piece, we adopted a playful approach by testing different ways to inspire a moment of presence to an audience. We experimented with several tactics such as adding an element of preparation for the experience, music, objects and scale, we experimented with presence in VR but also in the physical space. So, thanks to this process, we experimented presence and immersion and tested how to use them in XR.