#406: Building Storyworlds with Lawnmower Man’s Brett Leonard

leonardBrett Leonard’s journey into VR all started when he moved to Santa Cruz and started partying and smoking pot with some of the elite visionaries from the Silicon Valley technology scene. He was an aspiring writer and film director who got inspired by Jaron Lanier’s evangelism of virtual reality technologies. Brett got to try out a lot of cutting edge VR and then went on to help popularize the term “virtual reality” on a global scale with his 1992 film The Lawnmower Man, which is a dark cautionary tale that also contains many prophetic predictions. It’s still one of the earliest and most accurate portrayal of the potential of VR as an immersive video game medium, and Palmer Luckey has cited it as an inspiration for being able to step into a video game. It also shows how VR could open up new neural pathways into the mind and serve as one of the most transformational mediums today.

I had a chance to sit down with Virtuosity Entertainment’s Brett at Casual Connect last week to talk about some of the history of how he got into VR, and how he’s been thinking about how VR will transform storytelling into the process of building storyworlds. He’s taking inspiration from shamanic and tribal rituals as well as immersive theater productions like Sleep No More to come the conclusion that the primary experience of a story world will be kind of like a “clothes line under which the entire experience is hung.” While a tradition narrative is more like being presented a singular clothes line that’s fed to you, in VR it’ll be more like discovering many different clothes lines where you get to decide which line to focus on and then “try on the clothes on that line in order to discover where that clothes line leads.”

Brett also think of VR as primarily as a feminine medium, and has been actively thinking about the ethics of VR with his Five Laws of VR as well as participating in the Three Laws of Human Augmentation Code led by Dr. Steve Mann.


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Music: Fatality & Summer Trip