From The Guardian’s Jack de Quidt: The very first thing I saw in virtual reality was Wevr’s theBlu demo, back in the early days of the HTC Vive headset. It’s the thing a lot of people mention when they’re asked about the most compelling VR experiences, and with good reason: the demo transports you to the helm of a sunken ship, the whole ocean above your head; it allows you to take in the beauty of the scene for a few minutes before, out of the depths, a vast blue whale slowly emerges, dwarfing you.
I took the headset off and walked away across the busy floor of the game conference, but I could still feel the water around me. I told my friends. They joined the long queues. They told their friends. And that was the entire story that was told: there is a whale and it is beautiful. Since then, I’ve flown spaceships and climbed buildings and repaired robots in VR. I’ve shot a variety of floating objects. I’ve sat cross-legged in the middle of Venice’s Piazza San Marco and looked down on the people in the flooded square.
But here’s what I haven’t done. I have never met a single original, memorable character in virtual space. I have never interacted in a conversation. I cannot recall a single line of dialogue. When I bring this up with Jason Rubin, head of content at Oculus, the company behind the Rift headset that kickstarted the modern VR revolution, the reason becomes clear: storytelling – actual storytelling – is very, very difficult with this technology.
Rubin is no newcomer to narrative games. The co-founder of Naughty Dog (Uncharted, The Last of Us) and former president of THQ, he has a history of design, production and storytelling across a vast swath of best-selling titles. Originally joining Oculus in 2014 as their head of worldwide studios, Rubin was promoted to head of content this year, where he essentially acts as a high level producer for all of Oculus’s VR development. If there are to be stories on this platform, it’s his job to facilitate them.