Q&A with Alejandro Davila – AR/VR Producer @ Conical Studios
The New Yorker posted that interactive storytelling would be the defining art form of the 21st century. I sat down for a chat with pal and AR/VR expert Alejandro Davila to discuss what makes an immersive experience less of a gimmick and more successful.
What do you think is key to designing an immersive experience?
AD: Whilst Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality technologies can seem incredibly fascinating, what we’ve come to learn over the past couple of years is that they’re nothing without content. Firstly, engage your audience in a story-driven experience, regardless of how interactive it is, the story will always be king. Audiences won’t feel motivated to keep interacting with your content unless they feel an emotional engagement to the character/brand/product. Use gamification to drive the motivation of the user to take action and use their agency to unlock a reward, which can be as simple as unlocking the next scene or a special prize that moves the story forward.
Has designing stories with this new medium created many challenges?
AD: There are multiple challenges in designing immersive experiences, but most of the failures occur when the content creator forces the user to look at something they want them to see, rather than using human-centred elements of design that already exist in other industries to guide the user through the experience. Some industries to look at are architecture, radio and theatre.
Is it important for the story narrative to be user-driven?
AD: The experience should be user-centred, not necessarily user-driven. Design your experience based on what happens to the user and what happens around the user. They could either be a “fly on a wall” and witness an event or have full agency through motion controllers where they can interact with the environment. This is up to the content creators.
What does the future hold for VR storytelling?
AD: Like in the early 1900s with the rise of cinema, we saw a rage of slice-of-life films that remained experimental. Audiences quickly saw these as gimmicks until Georges Méliès combined filmmaking with storytelling and created ‘A Trip to the Moon’. From that point, filmmakers developed a language of storytelling for cinema. VR/AR content creators need to keep working together to craft a language of storytelling for VR/AR that has its foundations in the principles of storytelling and design experiences that create the suspense of disbelief making audiences forget they’re wearing a VR/AR headset.