Tender Claws‘ Virtual Virtual Reality is a Daydream-exclusive interactive story that won the best VR experience at the 2017 Google Play Awards VR, and it’s one of my personal favorite interactive narratives within VR. Virtual Virtual Reality (aka VVR) does a great job of balancing your control as a player with the authorial control of the story. You have the ability to openly explore the worlds, but it’s all within the context of a narrative that subtly guides you through a futuristic world where AI has taken over and is providing you an immersive hero’s journey experience.
The main mechanic in VVR is putting on VR headsets while you’re in VR such that you incept into deeper and deeper layers of simulated reality, and you have to navigate through these worlds and do specific tasks to progress through the story world. It’s a deeply satisfying mechanic, and Tender Claws was able to create an entire story that hinges on this process of going deeper and deeper down the simulated rabbit hole.
I talked with Tender Claws co-founders Samantha Gorman and Danny Cannizzaro at VRLA in April 2017 about their experiential design and interactive storytelling insights from creating VVR. Gorman has been creating immersive stories in VR since 2002, and so there’s a level of polish and degree of elegant experiential design and storytelling that comes through both in VVR, their TendAR AR narrative at Sundance 2018, and their upcoming follow-up to VVR with Scottsdale which had an early prototype showing at Kaleidoscope VR’s FIRST LOOK Market.
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VVR is not only a fun and entertaining look at the future of our relationship to AI and immersive technologies, but Tender Claws is also using quite a lot of cutting-edge AI techniques for content generation within the experience. They’re also pushing the boundaries for storytelling in AR with TendAR. Cannizzaro said that Tender Claws is really interested in blurring the lines between the digital and real worlds, and that VR has been an excellent prototyping tool to develop some of the storytelling ideas they hope to apply within AR, which has been started to put into practice with TendAR.
Tender Claws is one of the most progressive and forward-thinking content studios in the VR and AR space, and they’re pushing forward the boundaries of interactive storytelling with each of their projects, which started with an award-winning iPad-based story called PRY. They really got the most out of the limited 3-DoF Daydream controller by using interactive leashes for what felt like seamless gameplay and interaction mechanics within Virtual Virtual Reality. Their writing strikes a great balance between humor, surrealism, and character-development, and they found a great combination of exploration with storytelling in their experience. Be sure to check out Virtual Virtual Reality on the Daydream headset, and I’m looking forward to learning more about their TendAR and Scottsdale projects later in 2018.
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