The Time Traveler’s Wife: Hypertext Commentary

The Time Traveler’s Wife: Hypertext Commentary

‘Hourglass’ is a digital adaptation of Audrey Niffenegger’s The Time Traveler’s Wife. It is a hypertext, which focuses on the individual narratives of the two main characters, Henry and Clare. I have chosen to adapt The Time Traveler’s Wife because, although there is the 2009 film adaptation of the same name, directed by Robert Schwentke staring Eric Bana and Rachel McAdams and an eBook, there aren’t any other adaptations of the book.

This adaptation was influenced by my research into hypertext. I believe hypertext can provide another dimension, which is lacking from book. For instance, the addition of audio making the characters realistic and the inclusion of interactivity with the user making choices leading to different narrative outcomes.

One inspiration for my project was mémoire involuntaire no. 1 where hypertext was used to explore a poem. It had live changes that made the text fluid rather than static and distorted/changed the user’s experience of the text. For example, the poem was a memory from a child’s perspective, but the words changed mirroring the idea that, as time goes on, when recalling a memory, words are altered and details are forgotten and then remembered when retelling. This provides a multiple experiences for the user because, each time you entered the hypertext, the narrative would vary.

This hypertext offers choices of experience in that the user can decide to experience Henry or Clare’s story with the additional extra for audio as well. The user clicks on either Henry or Clare’s profile and is then provided with diary entries that are detailed, first person, chapter summaries that I have written.

I decided to create a hypertext because this enables the users’ experience to be varied. In doing this, the amount of options/path ways is increased compared to the book’s narrative. Clare’s narrative will be linear and in chronological order. This is so the user can understand the time aspect of the book in that there are long periods of time where Henry is absent. In contrast, Henry’s narrative will be non-linear and dependent on the user’s choices. The user has three buttons at the end of each diary entry all of which lead to different diary entries. Therefore, it depends which button the user selects as to the narrative journey they experience. This is my attempt at digitally simulating ‘time traveling’.

Many people have criticised the film adaptation because ‘it misses the point of the book’. Therefore, my intention is to create an experience that allows the user to understand the unpredictability of time travel and the hardships Clare experiences always ‘being left behind…the one who stays.’

The Book Thief – Commentary

My project is based on the novel The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. I decided to create a website which explores different elements of the book, such as: the characters, places and notable quotes. I coded the website because it gave me greater control over the look, and content, of the website compared to using a tool such as WordPress.

One of the main things I wanted to include in my website was interactive elements. This was important because ‘it is not enough to simply echo paper’s capabilities’[1] and interactivity is one of the main ways to go beyond what is possible in print. Also, ‘increased level of interactivity on a Web site [has] positive effects on user’s perceived satisfaction, effectiveness, efficiency, value, and overall attitude towards a Web site.’[2]

This additional interactivity would also mean changing the mode of engagement. According to Linda Hutcheon there are three different modes of engagement: ‘the telling mode (a novel) immerses us through imagination in a fictional world; the showing mode (plays and films) immerses us through the perception of the aural and the visual […]; the participatory mode (video games) immerses us physically and kinesthetically.’[3] By adding in interactive elements, users engage with the website through the participatory mode, although not to the same extent as with a video game. Ideally, the website would be even more interactive, thus immersing the user more fully in the world, and the story.

Even so, coding the website from scratch meant I was able to create and incorporate the interactive elements I did include, without having to fit into an existing system. For example, I created an interactive map of the places in the book because ‘[m]aps […] allow the user to explore their subjects in ways impossible in print.’[4] However, creating this map would probably have been more difficult if I wasn’t working from a blank frame but instead was trying to fight against existing code from WordPress.

A similar problem is likely to have occurred when I made the interactive timeline on my website, which needed a lot of specific HTML and CSS in order to work. I added in this timeline to allow the users of the website to experience The Book Thief in different ways. The timeline presented the events of the novel in a straight-forward, chronological retelling, with only the most important events covered, thus missing a lot of the finer detail.

In contrast to this, the novel can also be explored through quotes taken from the novel. Once again, these are listed in chronological order, but they do not necessarily cover the important events, but rather the important ideas and most memorable sections. This means you are less likely to know what happens in the actual story but instead can explore the most poignant moments. The quotes are also sortable by the topic of the quote, thus making it possible to explore the most memorable points in novel about single theme.

In addition to presenting the existing story in multiple ways, I also expanded on it, which is part of a phenomenon known as transfictionality. Transfictionality ‘consists of producing and posting texts that complete, modify, or stretch in time the worlds of preexisting literary texts, or that transpose their plots and characters into new environments.’[5] For this project I created ten letters which are supposed to be written after the main events in the book. I chose to write letters because they are a literary device already used in the novel, and because they are ‘able to describe different point of views’[6] while still staying in the timeframe of the book, which is something a blog or social media accounts would not be able to accomplish. I didn’t want to change the timeframe of the book because the events that take place are grounded in the fact that it’s set during World War Two. If I were to change the time the book takes place in then this would be transposition, which ‘transports the plot of a story to a different historical or geographical setting’.[7]

One of the main things I would do to improve my website is to add in audio and video content, which is something my project lacks. This could be achievable by creating short videos about each chapter, or perhaps adding audio and video files into the interactive timeline to break up the text. This would be an improvement because it would be able to give users another way to experience the novel as well as targeting people who learn differently. Auditory learners ‘learn best by listening since they remember when they hear things’[8] and ‘videos are a great learning tool for visual learners’[9] as well. While this website is not aimed specifically as a learning tool, being able to target these different learning styles means the users have a variety of ways to use the website, and are able to experience it through their preferred medium.

[1] Marshall, Catherine C. ‘Reading and interactivity in the digital library: Creating an experience that transcends paper.’ Proceedings of CLIR/Kanazawa Institute of Technology Roundtable: Citeseer; 2005.

[2] Teo, Hock-Hai, Oh, Lih-Bin, Liu, Chunhui and Wei, Kwok-Kee ‘An empirical study of the effects of interactivity on web user attitude’. International Journal of Human-Computer Studies, 58(3), pp. 281–305, 2003. [online] Available from: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1071581903000089 [Accessed 5 May 2016]

[3] Hutcheon, Linda A theory of adaptation, New York, Taylor & Francis, 2004. pp.22-23

[4] O’Donnell, Daniel Paul ‘Disciplinary Impact and Technological Obsolescence in Digital Medieval Studies’ Schreibman, S. and Siemens, R. (eds.). A companion to digital literary studies 2008. [online] Available from: http://www.digitalhumanities.org/companionDLS/  [Accessed 5 May 2016]

[5] Ryan, Marie-Laure ‘Fictional Worlds in the Digital Age’ Schreibman, S. and Siemens, R. (eds.). A companion to digital literary studies 2008. [online] Available from: http://www.digitalhumanities.org/companionDLS/  [Accessed 5 May 2016]

[6] admin ‘Epistolary – examples and definition of Epistolary’, 2015. [online] Available from: http://literarydevices.net/epistolary/ [Accessed 5 May 2016]

[7] Ryan, Marie-Laure ‘Possible worlds – the living handbook of narratology’. Interdisciplinary Center for Narratology, University of Hamburg, 2012 [online] Available from: http://wikis.sub.uni-hamburg.de/lhn/index.php/Possible_Worlds [Accessed 6 May 2016]

[8] Admin ‘Visual, Auditory and kinesthetic/tactile learning styles – red river college – applied learning – distance education – continuing education’, undated. [online] Available from: http://www.rrc.ca/index.php?pid=7666 [Accessed 6 May 2016]

[9] Sumner, Elizabeth ‘3 types of learners: Which One are you?’ 2014 [online] Available from: http://www.wgu.edu/blogpost/3-types-learners-which-one-are-you [Accessed 6 May 2016]

South West Minds Project

www.southwestminds.co.uk is a digital curation of authors and literature from the south west of England associated with various forms of mental issues.

The website is primarily navigated through a map containing pins to represent either authors who live in the south west and have mental issues such as depression, Alzheimer’s, etc. and literature set in the south west which also contains themes of mental illness such as autism and addiction. When clicked on, an information box appears which contains a brief summary of the author/literature’s connection to mental issues and a link to the author/piece of literature’s own section of the website.

For authors, this section contains a biography and a selection of essays on their works which explore the way the author’s mental issues have potentially influenced the text.

For works of literature set in the south west their section contains a plot summary of the book and a selection of essays on that book which consider in various ways the mental illness depicted within.

As this website maps novels from a specific part of the world, location is very important to this project, therefore I have decided to theme the essays that I have written for the website around the settings of the novels.

I will use crowdsourcing in order to find other authors and novels to add to the map. I will also use crowdsourcing to add further essays to the website.

I have chosen to create this project because, as a society we are becoming increasingly aware and understanding of mental issues. For example, Stephen Fry has used his celebrity status to improve our understanding of bipolar disorder. Best-selling non-fiction title The Reason I Jump has given us an insight into the world as seen by a boy with autism. Louis Theroux’s BBC documentaries, such as Drinking to Oblivion which considers life as an alcoholic, help to raise awareness of several mental issues through the medium of television. As such, I wanted to create a website that contributes to this awareness raising. I think that literature (novels, poems and plays) can be a great way to bring mental illness to a variety of people because so many different types of literature contain such themes. From Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations, to Jacqueline Wilson’s The Illustrated Mum, the range of literature is so diverse. By including academic-style essays on such literature and the literature of these authors my website will provide another way to learn about and understand mental illness.

Whilst you can find examples of literature from all over the world that speak about mental issues, I have chosen to focus my project in on one area of England as I believe that this will help me to produce a more intimate and thoughtful website. If I were to open the site up to literature and authors from anywhere in the world there is the chance that it will feel too large to be able to navigate or appreciate properly. Also, it will take much longer for the website to accumulate a good amount of content per author/piece of literature as there will be so many examples. Additionally, by focusing on one smaller area I can highlight just how common mental issues are as the map already contains numerous pins. In the future this project could be applied to other areas of the country and, eventually, the world. For example, another website could be created called north-west minds which collates literature and authors from the north-west of England.

Commentary: The Literary Teens

‘The Literary Teens’ is a project which explores how adolescence is represented in media, specifically books. It will presented in the forms of articles and reviews on https://theliteraryteens.wordpress.com/ , podcasts onhttps://soundcloud.com/welcome-to-the-dollhouse and additional content on Twitter (https://twitter.com/theliteraryteen). The reason I wanted to embark on this project is that it seems that the teenager is only portrayed in one way in modern literature; they’re living in a dystopian world and fighting for their lives. As fun as this sounds, I went looking for more variety. because ‘YA books present the teenage perspective in a fundamentally uncritical way’.[1]
Cindy Lou Daniels writes ‘Some still believe that YA literature is merely a secondary category of childlike storytelling—didactic in nature—and unworthy of serious literary evaluation’[2] but his pigeonholing is damaging because it doesn’t allow room for exploration. This genre-shaming means that even though some of the books, such as Divergent by Veronica Roth, are the most successful on the publishing market, the stigma surrounding those influences reviews and criticism. I wanted this project to serve as a reminder as to how important and influential teenage characters actually are. The criticism of the YA novel was already being discussed back in 1961, when the ‘junior novel’ as it was called, was a relatively new concept — ‘The remedy is not to kill the genre, but to find more competent criticism for it, quicker recognition and stronger support for the books that do present true values and good literature, and sounder evaluation of character and style’.[3]

The WordPress website serves as the centre of my projects, where I will upload articles about anything and everything to do with teenagers and books. With a fun and informal tone, tongue-in-cheek writing, the website will be a place for discovery and debate.

There have been many literary adaptations done successfully online but an amassed retrospective on one subject could continue to grow because it is not tied down to one text/subject. With teenage literature, there is an infinite amount of material to explore and theories to discuss so the conversation will be able to continue. Also, as long as the publishing industry does not decide to stop producing teen fiction, there will always be new material for the project. In the long term, it would be sensible for my project to use crowdsourcing and build a community which can contribute reviews and articles to the website. This would allow for a variety opinions and encourage debate. It would also means that a larger amount content could be produced because, as one person, it is impossible for me to read all the Young Adult books out there. At the moment, I am encouraging interactivity on Twitter, asking questions about people’s favourite books and using this as a source of inspiration on what I should write about next. Looking at the success of pynchonwiki.com, which provides detailed Wikipedia analysis of all of Thomas Pynchon’s work[4], I feel The Literary Teens could replicate it. On pynchonwiki.com, all of the content is provided by super-fan contributors who are willing to dedicate their time. With YA fiction having such a huge following, there will definitely be people out there willing to write about their favourite books. However, the Pynchon Wiki contributors are moderated and chosen based on their answer to the question ‘Why do you want to become an editor/contributor of Pynchon Wiki?’. I would have develop my own application form to make sure my contributors were appropriate. On the Reviews sections of the website, there will also be a ‘Guest’ tab to distinguish the contributions from my own.

Doing a podcast was my way of doing something a bit different; the medium is entering its golden age at the moment and they are great way of conveying information. The positives are that they are fluid and lively, listening to someone talk passionately about something is more engaging than reading about it and also, they don’t necessarily have to be that long. The negative is that it is difficult to do them alone. I found having no one to discuss with and create a flowing conversation made my podcast seem a little flat and one-sided. Next time I would find a partner who is interested in my project to help me debate and discuss. Using multimedia as part of my project allows me to be more entertaining while still getting my points across. John A. Walsh writes that using multimedia creates ‘opportunities to create dynamic scholarship that updates and changes as the scholar’s ideas change and evolve, abandoning the constraints of the static monograph’.[5] Looking at other literary digital adaptions, such The Lizzie Bennett Diaries[6] and I Didn’t Write This[7], I was inspired to create an entertaining and versatile project that could grow with the audience. The Lizzie Bennett Diaries had weekly videos but you could also follow all the characters on Twitter and the companies in the fictional universe even had real websites to visit. ‘Reading an article or book is very effective but listening to someone talk to you, hearing their voice talking to you about something you are interested in increases engagement. The archived podcast also allows people to go back and listen at their convenience’.[8] To further the audible addition to my project, I also created a series of mixtapes, which were playlists made on Spotify. I would pick a character or a book and choose some songs that I thought would best tell the story or create an appropriate atmosphere.

I felt it was necessary to add a social media channel, in addition to my website, because it would allow more growth and interaction with a community. I could connect with my readers and then organic relationships could grow. It also gave me a free space to advertise my writing. Twitter allowed me to retweet other articles of interest, quotes, pictures and I knew that this is where I would find my target demographic.

My aim to create a hub for people who love Young Adult fiction and teenage characters, with never-ending reviews and interesting articles. I also wanted explore some unchartered territory in the literary world because there some YA books outs there that aren’t given the kudos they deserve because they are literary fiction, such as The Catcher in the Rye or The Outsiders.

 

 

 

[1] Graham, Ruth ‘Against YA’. Slate Book review. June 5th 2014 [Online] Available from: http://www.slate.com/articles/arts/books/2014/06/against_ya_adults_should_be_embarrassed_to_read_children_s_books.html [12/05/16]

[2] Daniels, Cindy Lou ‘Literary Theory and Young Adult Literature: The Open Frontier in Critical Studies’. The ALAN Review, Winter, 2006, pp. 78-84

[3] Alice Krahn, Marjorie Hoke, Anne Emery and James L. Summers, “Junior Novel –Pro and Con” Top of the News, XVII (May 1961) pp. 26-27

[4] Pynchon Wiki A Literary Wiki Exploring the Novels of Thomas Pynchon 16/05/16, Available from: http://pynchonwiki.com/ [Online] [Accessed 17 May 2016]

[5] A Companion to Digital Literary Studies, ed. Susan Schreibman and Ray Siemens. Oxford: Blackwell, 2008. http://www.digital humanities.org/companionDLS/) Essay 6.

 

[6] The Lizzie Bennett Diaries, 2012, [Online] Available from: https://www.youtube.com/user/LizzieBennet [Accessed 10 May 2016]

[7] I Didn’t Write This, 2014. [Online] Available from: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL9KxVMEYAaYJzVKZ8QWvhoT7_GZuxhBiF [Accessed 10 May 2016]

[8] Shane, Deborah ‘Buzz Suggests That Podcasting is Becoming More Popular’ Small Business Trends 2012. [Online] Available from: http://smallbiztrends.com/2012/10/podcasting-is-becoming-more-popular.html [12/05/16]

Romeo and Juliet Game Adaptation

Romeo and Juliet Game Adaptation

There have been numerous adaptations of Romeo and Juliet including: contemporary and modern films, an anime television series and the recent animated film Gnomeo and Juliet. There have also been a few online games, though these tend to be aimed at young children. These games are quite basic and force the player into a restricted retelling of the story.

Our game proposes to allow the player a substantial amount of freedom in their game play, allowing them to deviate from the main story. The player will be able to choose between playing as Romeo or Juliet, each will have their own set of missions and unique interactions. The game will be open-world similar to Fable or Skyrim, and the player will be able to explore and interact with the world freely. The game will also possess side-quests which do not affect the overall narrative of the story, but will allow the players to immerse themselves in the Shakespearian world. The main plot will also be altered by decisions made throughout the major missions, these decisions can lead to multiple endings. Possible endings include the death of just one of the protagonists, or neither, and the consequences of these changes would be explored. Other characters may temporarily be controlled for action scenes such as Mercutio and Tybalt’s fight.

Originally we intended to provide the option of choosing between the original setting and a modern version, but this would not be feasible due to the size the game. Downloadable content may be implemented, which could include extra missions and different outfits or accessories. The game is intended for an audience of teenagers and above.

Matilda: Game Adaptation

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Credit: Roald Dahl

Adaptations have become staple features in the box office, television screens and even games. The idea of taking a great story and bringing it to life in a completely new format or adjusting the plot to complement a different era or characters, is extraordinary. Not only does it bring in a whole new audience for the story, but it also allows the reader to experience the story in a different way.

 

Matilda is a childhood favourite by the iconic author, Roald Dahl. It has already been adapted into a well known film yet no other adaptions have come to life. Tor, Hannah, Sarah and I as a team, couldn’t help but think it would be an ideal plot for a children’s game app.

 

The game would need stay very true to the events within the book, due to game’s target audience being children. The player would need to be able to recognise the plot and characters to maintain the Matilda brand. It will be a story mode game with a linear plot as if the game is moving through the book. The levels in the game will represent book chapters and the next level will be achieved by completing a main task that will be a recognisable event from the book. For example; when Lavender puts the newt in Trunchbull’s water, the player will able to select an animal and will have to go and catch it as part of the task.

 

Alongside these main tasks there will also be mini games in which the player will have more freedom and control over the choices for their character, however like previously stated to ultimately move onto the next level they will need to complete the main task. Each level they progress onto, Matilda’s telekinesis will harness and grow more powerful which will be an incentive for the player to want to move onto the next level.

 

The visuals of the game would be similar to those of the James and the Giant Peach (1996) movie, so the characters would remain with a Quentin Blake (original illustrator of a lot of the Roald Dahl books) illustration style but appropriate for an app and animation. There will be various story like clips within the game, to keep the narrative consistent and easy for the player to keep up with. This will help make the game a storytelling interactive experience.

 

The game would be a great way of making a different generation’s childhood classic exciting again!

Kafka’s Metamorphosis as an Interactive Narrative

Kafka’s Metamorphosis as an Interactive Narrative

Re-imagining Franz Kafka’s classic about one mans transformation into a beetle as a conventional game probably wouldn’t work. By their most basic definitions, games deal with some form of challenge or competition, and this particular story doesn’t really possess any elements that would could be appropriately adapted for those features. But it would be an oversimplification to call that the limits of what makes a game.

Interactive narratives are a growing genre that essentially uses the medium of gaming to create immersive dimensions impossible on pages. These are reactive worlds in which players are able to shape the direction and outcome of storyline and environment usually by controlling character actions. They can massively vary in degrees of actual interactivity in terms of plot and world states. Take the differences between Telltale Games’ The Walking Dead compared to Gone Home for instance. The former being all about shaping a non-linear narrative in which player choices drastically alter its course of events, while the latter is about as linear as it gets, characterised as a ‘walking simulator’. Ultimately, either way they’re limited by the confines of game design and can be broken down into flow charts.

There’s a diversity in the kind of intellectual character between them too like Heavy Rain, akin to film noir blockbuster and The Stanley Parable as a satirical ‘art game’ that uses the same gaming tropes and mechanics it’s commenting upon.

Literature is by it’s basic nature a one dimensional thing, with singular narrative sequences besides those Choose Your Own Adventure style gamebooks. That’s to say that adapting books into interactive storylines would either require adding in new narrative stages or manipulating existing ones to produce different outcomes. As The Metamorphosis is a short and simple story we figured to keep to the existing source material, and to instead focus upon the aspects of atmosphere and world building around dialogue and aesthetics, like Dear Esther and The Vanishing of Ethan Carter. Interactivity is more than just quick time event like gimmicks though. While we agreed upon sticking to first person viewpoint and clunky bug like controls they had to mean more than just an opening sequence with trying to roll over Gregor Samsa stuck on his back in bed. Player actions would have to produce real changes like NPC dialogue, cut scenes and the protagonists family’s emotional decline.

We chartered a rough course of level design through the story’s setting, allowing certain player actions to trigger different stages throughout the existing source material; although agreed upon the futility of them, leading to the same indefinite conclusion. What’s more Kafkaesque after all than dying in a curdled up ball of misery right?

Hypertext Fiction

Hypertext Fiction

Hypertext Fiction is a very cool, unique was of telling a story. With complete freedom, you can create interactive narratives, add music and explore different outcomes, depending on the reader. The reader is an active participant in hypertext, allowing the journey to be non-linear. This can add an interesting and surreal effect to a person’s reading of the text.

Whilst exploring the hypertext website in class, the question asked was ‘would this become a popular new genre?’
It could be possible as most ours lives are run by our addictions to the internet and digital devices. Perhaps this could be the necessary element to encourage reading, albeit in an unconventional way. Already apps are being created for existing literature to aid and improve your reading experience. With this being so successful, it is not far-fetched to assume this may become the norm with publishing.

There are multiple issues with hypertext as a format, especially if you are a fan of traditional reading. This method removes essential character development and distances the reader somewhat. It is hard to become emotionally attached to someone if the the narrative is chopped up into sections, as you decide which button to click on next. This is why I think this genre would be more suited to non-fiction. I found infinite space to be perfect for encyclopaedias of information, simply presented in a different way. In particular, the ’88 Constellations For Wittgenstein’ proves this. Here, there is a wealth of information, displayed on a map, with unlimited clicking – the text is even read to you. It also suits the non-linear themes of hypertext.

It forces us to see stories in a different  way. For example I explored on piece of hypertext fiction where the Star Wars script was displayed on the screen one letter at a time.  We are used to seeing the Star Wars films on the screen with actors giving us nuanced performances which tell us the story; with the reader focussing, it interesting as to whether they would interpret the story differently. Also, this particular piece had carriage-returns, typing sounds and a bell in the background. These sounds effects help us to understand process of typing the script.

The overlapping narratives and detours of hypertext ensure that the reader will always be intrigued but this does not guarantee their enjoyment.

The Woman In Black: a first person PC/video game

The game begins in London with a contextualising video that can be skipped if the player wishes. The game begins in the village Crythin Gifford where the player runs around the village speaking to the villagers to gain information about Alice Drablow and the case of the woman in black. The last person they should be directed to is the man who will take him along the causeway to Eel Marsh House – the journey along the causeway will be a short video clip that shows the cross in the mist.

      When the player arrives at the house they are let loose inside to explore the rooms. The player will move from room to room on the ground floor and must collect the three compulsory items before they leave the room. The compulsory items will help them to travel through the rooms, for example in one room the candles will be blown out and the player must have collected the matches to relight the candles and continue. There are other items to collect but they don’t have to be collected immediately. If a player tries to enter a room that they don’t have the necessary items for, then the woman in black appears which triggers the player to shut the room door and run away. The items collected as evidence will be letters, pictures and cards that the players can use to decipher why the woman in black is haunting the house.

      The game will be interspersed with horror moments, such as candles in the room being blown out, the woman appearing suddenly and screaming.

      The game will keep elements of Susan Hill’s novella, such as the characters, settings and reason for the haunting. The game will allow the player to interact with the setting and characters, choosing which room to go into or which characters to speak to first. However, the game has a critical path: the player will not be able to change the end result of the game. This will allow them some freedom throughout the game but it will conclude in a way that ties in with the book’s conclusion. The game will focus on the ghost story told by Arthur Kipps, rather than the circumstances that surround his telling of the story.

Digital Literature Extreme Edition: Could VR be the future of digital literature?

Digital Literature Extreme Edition: Could VR be the future of digital literature?

Virtual Reality has been something of a hot topic for me recently. It was only last year that Facebook bought Oculus Rift for $2 billion, Microsoft revealed the first augmented reality glasses planned for commercial release, and Palmer Lucky (founder of Oculus) appeared on the front cover of Time magazine to talk about its development. Whether you’re into VR or not, it’s on the rise.

For those who’ve never heard of it, Virtual Reality involves sitting down in a safe place, putting on a rather expensive headset that entirely covers your vision and hearing, then allowing yourself to be enveloped into another world entirely. Until now, this has almost exclusively been a world of simple conceptual video games. The headset’s tilt mechanics have been used to simulate things like the winter Olympics’ Luge. Survival horror games have also been successful projects for the Oculus, and I can tell you that recent horror games like Amnesia and Alien: Isolation are scary enough as it is, without completely immersing yourself into the game world.

But that is exactly where the power of VR lies. Complete immersion. VR only started to take off when critics and beta testers were actually fooled into thinking they were in the game’s world, whatever it may be. Once your mind breaks away from the knowledge that it is looking at a screen, it can be opened up to entirely new experiences. I’ve heard a story from an industry professional, who said their VR simulation of flying in a harrier jump jet, had people almost throwing up when they tried loop-the-loops. The experience felt so real, the player’s brains actually thought they had been flipped upside down.

Now, it’s all good fun to have some scary games and conceptual demos at the forefront of the VR library, but what is truly fascinating, is when someone attempts something like this:

 

0846 is a VR game set in the World Trade Center on 9/11

 

The very idea that someone has made a VR experience that puts you in the shoes of a 9/11 victim creates room for debate. Obviously people immediately reacted with scepticism, but this interview with the developers gets across what they wanted to achieve, which in my own opinion, seems perfectly noble. This is thanks to their extensive research and careful handling of their source material.

 

When trying to do justice to the horror that the victims of 9/11 may have felt, how closer could you get than to actually step into their shoes and experience it for yourself? Obviously it’s not going to be a pleasant experience, but neither is watching the opening to Saving Private Ryan, something that is supposed to be a harrowing depiction of the senselessness of war. So why can’t this demo be a testament to the barbarity of terrorism, or be open to any other number of interpretations? The developers themselves say they have stopped labelling it a game, because in all honesty that’s not what it is. It’s a piece of digital literature.

Don’t get me wrong, the experience itself is poorly voice acted, is visually uninspiring and the whole thing is over in 9 minutes, all of which will detract from the power that this VR demo would otherwise have on the player. But it’s a start. I believe subjects like this are at their most powerful when expressed through the medium of a game, even if there are no ‘gaming’ tropes within them. Sure, a book or film could do just as much justice to 9/11 or any other tragedy from history, but the power of taking control of another identity for a few minutes, experiencing what they see, hearing what they hear (no touch or smell just yet), making their choices for them and experiencing the consequences is something that is almost chillingly powerful.

 

Even if you’ve never played a game before in your life, I strongly urge you to try Amnesia: The Dark Descent. On your own. In the dark. Then after that, realise that playing it with VR is probably about 100 times more terrifying.

 

I’m leaving this completely open for debate too, so here are some questions I’d like to ask:

Would you want to experience 9/11 if you could? If you watched the video on Kotaku, imagine this demo is slightly higher quality than it is for this question.

 

Are there any historical events that you would enjoying seeing presented in this medium?

 

Can you see VR taking off in the future? If so, why/why not?