Storysharing – Beyond Storytelling in VR

Storysharing in VR - photo by Pete GrayA lot has been made of the role of VR in the art of storytelling. Even more has been made of the role of storytelling in the fledgling art of VR. At first, I was fascinated by the idea. But the more I thought about it – the more I read about it – the more I started to wonder how many “interactive” concepts could be added to an idea that is 7/12 “telling”, without the very idea of “storytelling” bursting at the seams. The dead-end implications of “telling” anything to users with the capacity for full interaction weighed on me. So I came up with the term storysharing.

Take for example this very popular article from Huffington Post:

Storytelling in Virtual Reality: The Basics

An excellent article, all around. Here’s some quotes, that I think underscore my concerns about the conflict between “interactivity” and “telling”:

Agency, put simply, is the ability to “do something” in the experience — to interact or react rather than simply perceive.

In a virtual reality experience, the viewer chooses how to participate.

Digging into this kind of “passively active decision-making” offers a narrative avenue that, of yet, exclusively exists in VR.

That all being the case, some have encouraged conceiving of the position we’ve traditionally called “director” as more of an “influencer” in VR.

All of these very sound ideas refute the idea of “telling” a story. Especially the last one – a director tells. An influencer? An influencer doesn’t tell. They don’t exactly share, either – but sharing and influencing are much more likely to work out together than telling and influencing. Telling and influencing are to my mind a bit mutually exclusive.

So…  Storysharing?

There’s my rant. I’m not content to be a “storyteller” when we have a brand new medium here that transcends storytelling to such a spectacular degree. If I’m gonna focus on agency – if I’m gonna let the users participate in how the story is told – I can’t be a director, I’d have to be an influencer. If I’m gonna let users affect a virtual reality the way they’re used to affecting real reality, rather than telling them, I couldn’t think of myself as a storyteller – but I could think of myself as a storysharer.

Storysharing. Beyond storytelling. Content development for the experience age. Interactivity that rivals the real world. A quantum leap beyond storytelling made possible by the technologies of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Storysharing.

(Perhaps ironically, you the reader have no way to interact with this story – I just told it to you…)

Update, 2 days later:

I was at the #VRTOC2016 yesterday, and a lot of people were talking about how to convey stories in #VR. While none of them dropped the term “storysharing”, they, like me, sure seemed to be exploring off in that direction:

The future of : “stories that react and adapt to the audience’s input” –

In designing narrative looks to tribal rituals which guide groups through shared yet interactive experiences

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Author: Pete

Editor-in-Chief, Lead Software Developer and Artistic Director @