Once just a figment of sci-fi writers’ imaginations, virtual reality puts users inside whole new worlds in both film and video games.
Video games have become more and more immersive with role playing and first-person shooters. You feel as if you are there in that environment, interacting with objects, non-player characters, and, in some instances, other players. Similarly, movies have become incredibly immersive with 3D, IMAX, and 4D experiences. With the increasing technical advancement, virtual reality will break the already crumbling barrier between movies and video games.
Think about games such as Heavy Rain, an interactive video game thriller where your decisions and actions determine the outcome of the story. In Heavy Rain, the protagonists must stop the Origami Killer who drowns his victims with prolonged exposure to rainfall. The game already acts as an interactive film that you can control. Imagine playing this game and being able to feel raindrops on your head—on your arms—while playing as your character. Virtual reality makes this type of gameplay possible.
Imagine being Katniss Everdeen and exploring her world across all four of The Hunger Games films. In 2015, Samsung, Lionsgate, and Reel FX animation studio collaborated to bring fans of The Hunger Games series a 360 virtual reality experience. The 3D experience “allows viewers to explore key moments throughout Katniss’ [sic] journey, across all four films in the series.”
Films have also created immersive environments with 3D, where the characters look as if they are coming out of the screen toward you, and 4D, where theaters add physical elements to the viewing experience such as smell. With VR, films are elevated to even greater heights, allowing you to become fully immersed in the film. VR adds an element of interactivity for film that goes beyond the trivia questions that accompany DVDs.
With VR, games and film put you in a 360 degree world where you experience the story from the point of view of a character or even an object. In some films or games, your decisions determine the outcome. In others, you, the viewer make choices, but are still left in the dark as to the ending of the game or film. For example, similar to the game play of Heavy Rain, the film Broken Night explores a woman’s (Emily Mortimer) unreliable narrative of an intense trauma. Speaking to a detective, her confused memories unfold: returning home in the midst of a fight with her husband (Alessandro Nivola), they encounter an intruder. The viewer is placed in a position of choosing which memories to follow, sharing her confusion before coming to the startling truth.
As VR puts the viewer in the thick of all the action, films and video games become even more story-driven and viewer focused. The lines of game play and film are indeed blurred with the increased technological advancement of virtual reality. VR can make video game play seem as if the viewer is inside of a movie. And in that same token, films have an element of video game play, such as making choices and interacting with objects and people. With virtual reality you don’t just play video games. You don’t just watch films. Soon, when we hear about an interesting film or game to be released, we will say, “I can’t wait to experience it.”