I went to Guildford. Dan and Jules are there . Dan is an old old friend. He’s making things with virtual reality. “How many times in your lifetime has there been a new storytelling medium?” he asks rhetorically.
Loads though. Loads. What a lifetime for storytelling change. Technology changes and storytelling changes with it. Text based Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Twin Kingdom Valley. Adventure and Raiders of the Lost Arc on Atari 2600. Pools of Radiance on PC. Eye of the Beholder on Amiga. DikuMUDs using early internet. I remember talking live to someone in America from Reading and having my mind blown about how it could be possible. And having to type “eat bread drink flask” in the middle of my conversation to stop my text avatar from being hungry and thirsty even if I was hungry and thirsty myself. Those MUDS are still extremely deep games. Some still exist. But we went to graphics.
Wolfenstein to Doom to Half Life to Garry’s Mod to Minecraft. Forward to backwards to forward. GTA 1 to Red Dead 2. Unrecognisable, but trackable. The capacity of computers has multiplied and multiplied in the time I have been alive. So has the money available. It might be that in retrospect we are at the peak of the golden age right now for computer games. We are building the pyramids out of slave labour. Human rights and regulation might make future Red Dead 2 type games impossible.
In the early nineties we all thought that the people with mobile phones were needy. “Oh come on. Like you need to be contactable at all times!” “What a tit. Like he can’t arrange the evening before it starts!”
Now we all feel anxiety if we are parted from it for a second. “Ok Google, where’s my phone?” It’s our placebo. Our database. Our external memory. Our knowledge base. Our crutch.
I’ve been flailing around at Dan’s on Oculus. It’s incredible. Less sickmaking than PlayStation as the frame rate is better. Your brain is less aware that it’s being lied to. The potential for this medium is limitless, as soon as the base tech becomes affordable. If there were demo points all over the place where you could sample it for free, people would be happier to stump up the cash for the initial outlay. But as it is it’s a huge outlay for something that failed to take off in the eighties. Like 3D film, it had failed once before. Despite people being quite evangelistic about it, it seems that 3D redux is still an expensive flash in the pan and now you can go see Avengers without having to pay 3 quid extra for shit glasses. VR though… It’s here to stay and it’s only going to get deeper. You can do so much with it. Brian bought Super Hot, which is unusual but a deep demonstration of the medium. This evening I’ve played Tsuro VR, which is Dan’s own creation – although not on PSVR yet. Beat Saber. Res. You can be transported in these pieces of work. It really is like plugging in to the matrix. Terrifying and brilliant at the same time. We will make a whole generation blind. We will destroy human contact and replace it with stories. And we will smile and say “This is good.”
I’ll keep making theatre. I’ll do random stories where you have to come to the room where the story is happening. Where the actors can see you. I’ve enjoyed being a mischievous mini golf pro today for A Door in a Wall, fucking with strangers in real life for clues. And then I’ve spent the evening plugged in to a headset, flailing like I’m having a dementia nightmare, my brain thinking I’m the lightsaber wielding dancer. To the world outside looking like the spasmodic helpless gimp. Now my eyes can’t focus.
I got to ride in the front of an ambulance though. Result. They were on a call for my friend who had picked up a heatstroke alcoholic. I helped them find him and got a ride. The real world can be as random and interesting as games. And less curated. How many of you have ridden in the front of an ambulance. And it just … happened.