VR is beautiful. That’s what we notice first about this new technology—it’s visually striking, drawing us into three-dimensional worlds in a way no other medium is able to do. It’s a beauty that can be seen from all angles, and you can inspect it like a sculpture or appreciate its staging like a film.
VR’s incredible visual potential often leads us to assume that graphics are what’s most immersive. And while the way a game looks is not unimportant—in fact, it’s a large part of preventing motion sickness in players—there’s more to VR than that. Immersion goes beyond looks, and the best VR stories are proving that it’s narrative, not graphics, that makes the difference in immersion.
Immersion Comes From Many Sources
Immersion is a little different for everybody. For some, immersion is seeing a convincing world and being able to explore it. For others, it’s feeling like you’re part of a story, with characters, scenery, and elegant writing drawing you further into a fictional world. Because there are so many possible ways to feel immersed, it gets a bit complicated to pin down what features precisely will lead to maximum immersion.
But there’s an important distinction to be made here—immersion, awe, and fun are great, but none of those words mean the same thing. Each can be found independently, with some games being awe-inspiring but not fun, fun but not immersive, or immersive without fun. All of this is subjective, so there’s opportunity for overlap but no guarantee that any of these features are connected.
In virtual reality, this remains true. VR, by its nature, is awe-inspiring. Stepping into a virtual world for the first time often inspires a little gasp from players—it’s shocking to see something you know is fake rendered so realistically in front of you. And, because it’s encompassing in a way that most other technology is not, it’s naturally a bit more engaging because you can’t see or hear the outside world around it.
But true immersion goes deeper than that. Games like Job Simulator or Fantastic Contraption emphasize the fun in VR over story. They’re immersive because the technology is, and we forgive any flaws—disconnected hands, graphics errors, unrealistic physics—because fun is a decent exchange. But there are other ways to immerse players, and, in virtual reality, story may be a better way to draw them in.
VR Stories Leave a Lasting Impact
This early in VR’s practical debut, there are still some technical issues to work out. Motion sickness is a big one, and so is making environments that look realistic versus really slick. Neither of these things are necessarily dealbreakers, but they are technical hurdles to overcome, especially when you question whether technical realism is really what your game is aiming for.
That’s where story comes in. VR is more than just pretty graphics; it’s a fully simulated world packed full of objects to interact with and people to see. Players want to interact, and that means that the world has to be ready to respond.
In Loading Human, a sci-fi adventure game in a fully realized virtual world, that means that the majority of the objects you see can be manipulated, offering you additional details about the protagonist, Prometheus, and the characters around him. When you interact with a character, they respond, unlike in many conventional games, where the world seems largely obviously to your presence unless you’re deliberately pressing a button for interaction, VR stories require that response. If you walk directly up to somebody in real life and stare into their face, they’ll respond. If that doesn’t happen in VR, players won’t feel immersed.
Instead of having to anticipate every bizarre thing that players do, you can account for it through story. Players in Loading Human have plenty to do, including exploring the environments, examining objects, and engaging in deep, personal conversation with NPCs like Alice, Dorian, and Lucy. Better still, there’s a narrative direction to continuously draw you back into the world. When we’re carried along by narrative threads, we always have something to do. There’s less opportunity to focus on the things that aren’t real, because our attention is always drawn forward—it’s excitement and awe driving immersion, in this case, brought about by skillful writing.
While Job Simulator and Fantastic Contraption are enjoyable, it’s unlikely that they’ll inspire the same sense of immersion as something where you’re clearly inhabiting the life and body of a developed character, as in Loading Human. Story is what drives you forward, even when the initial awe begins to fade.
Story Sticks After Graphics Fade
We play games like Portal and Metal Gear Solid because their stories and mechanics are still fascinating, even this many years after their release. It’s creativity and skillful writing and design that keep them in our memories, not the way they look. Loading Human does both, combining fascinating new technology with a futuristic story of humanity—while the graphics are impressive, it’s the narrative that grabs you and keeps you invested, and it’s that, not flashy gimmicks, that VR should aim to capture. Graphics age, but a good story is eternal.
Loading Human aims to explore the vast storytelling potential of virtual reality with a sleek vision of the future. Order your copy of Chapter One today!