VR Writing, world-building, writing technique

Writing for the METAverse

PHOTO: Buzz Aldrin walking on Mars. Virtually, of course.

The METAverse is coming. You know, totally immersive virtual worlds; computer-simulated environments populated by people who simultaneously communicate with others and participate in shared activities. They are working and shopping and vacationing, all without leaving home.

The METAverse is the world as you wish it to be. Pour yourself a real drink and you can drink it while sitting on a beach, or in a bar with friends or, hell, on Mars if you wish. Instantly. That’s how long it takes to go anywhere in VR.

I can imagine sitting at a table outside the Café de Flore, at the corner of boulevard Saint Germain and rue Saint Benoit, Paris, with people from the Writers Co-op. We talk about writing virtual reality stories for this new ‘verse. The problem is we have to write stories where we do not control all of the characters because every “reader” enters our story as a character. (Wrap your head around that!)

It’s simple, really. The story just has to move forward only when a user (aka reader) does or says the right thing. We are creating the story, but not all of the characters. (And we’re not doing the programming. Programmers do that, based on the story created by the writer.)

Here’s some tips from those currently writing for VR.

“In VR, the space is the story. Spaces are pregnant with sensory detail, ideas, behaviors, and narrative possibility—your job is to put that all to use. We encourage you to think less about generalized “realism” and more about specificity of vision, manifested in space. We can’t express this enough: the space is as (if not more) important than your plot and characters. While composing your story, think about the ways you can build environments capable of making the viewer imagine stories of their own—even without any other human beings in the picture.”
Writing for VR: The Definitive Guide to VR Storytelling

“In VR, you can’t just talk at your user. Well, you could, but that’s not especially exciting and they can probably get that level of experience from a bog-standard YouTube video.
So, you need to think more carefully about the different ways you can tell your story – and how to guide them around it. In a 360-degree experience, you can’t guarantee that your user is going to be looking in the right direction. In fact, you can almost guarantee they won’t be, unless you point them to it.”
How are you communicating with the user?

The following story changes as you read it. It’s interactive. Try it to see how environment and choice are used in VR stories.
“Trapped & Transformed in Virtual Reality”

The METAverse will not replace books any more than did the movies. But now may be the time to make a name for yourself by being one of the early writers in a new medium. Me? I’ll just settle into a seat at the Café de Flore and read a good book.


14 thoughts on “Writing for the METAverse

    • I agree 100%, J1ODSON, “This is a horribly fascinating concept.” Millions of dollars are now buying “real estate” in “virtual domains.” That’s real dollars and that’s really weird. But I can’t think of any new technology ever developed that we didn’t use.

      Liked by 3 people

      • I seem to remember there were Googlespecs, weren’t there? Could this not be another instance where the fascination with what technology can do takes precedence over what people actually want? Whatever happens, I will happily join you, GD, at the Café de Flore.

        Liked by 3 people

        • Googlespecs! I forgot about those. Yup, people didn’t like being gazed upon by someone likely to simultaneously be looking them up on the ‘Net. Or streaming a video of them to online social services, hackers and government agencies. Any government.
          ‘Course, that technology has since been adapted to contact lenses.

          I hope you’re right, Curtis, that the METAverse may not be as wildly embraced as its investors anticipate. But the desire to escape reality is strong in many. And governments as well as businesses have been quick to provide a circus to divert attention.

          Liked by 2 people

    • Exactly, Mimi! There are currently three billion gamers world-wide who are going to lead the way and behind them will come adults seeking employment and shopping and the latest entertainment and kids who only know the world as it is becoming. Our generation may be the last with our feet grounded in reality.

      Liked by 2 people

  1. It sounds like storytelling through set design seen through the eyes of a director. In today’s immersive theatre, there are partially-scripted actors, but the audience joins them on stage and individuals choose which actors to follow while adding their own words and actions.

    But I think that “living” in the METAverse would be just as sad as “living” only through books or films. I suppose that means I am MET-Averse.

    Liked by 5 people

    • Sue! That is brilliant! “MET-Averse.” We will hear that coinage again. It reminds me of Al Capp’s treatment of the Minutemen, that right-wing militia that became famous in the last century. He put a hyphen in their name, and they became the Minute (as in of small importance) Men. Once I read that, it’s how I always thought of them, the “my-nute” men.

      The one sitcom that I played when I had an Oculus VR headset (I passed it on to my son) was in fact “storytelling through set design seen through the eyes of a director.” You could wander the set all you wanted but until you talked to a character and responded, the doors were locked. And the door you could then go through led to the next scene.

      Liked by 3 people

  2. Perry Palin says:

    Man, I don’t know.

    I’ve made concessions to new things, and even adopted some of them for my own use. Whole house air conditioning, the automatic transmission, disposable cigarette lighters, AM/FM radio, solar powered electric fencing, four wheel drive farm tractors with hydrostatic transmission and power steering, email, word processing, breathable chest waders for stream fishing, electric start on a boat motor. I couldn’t even begin to make a whole list.

    But I never was a gamer. As a child I didn’t see the lure of the pinball machine, preferring instead to go outside to shoot hoops, or walk through the woods east of the house to hunt up the ravens’ nest while my black dog chased the scent of a hare, or sit in the living room and read a couple more chapters of Moby Dick.

    I don’t think this METAdverse idea is for me.

    Liked by 5 people

    • Yeah. It makes me want to use flash fiction to show how bizarre and dangerous is the whole concept.
      Maybe, a guy in a war zone, huddled in his basement, escapes to the METAverse and uses pain killers to die happily from rats eating his flesh.

      Liked by 3 people

  3. victoracquista says:

    Because I enjoy gaming, not the shoot-’em’-up so much as immersive role-playing, I should be more interested in this. I like the idea of writing for the METAverse but I share Sue’s feelings.

    Liked by 3 people

    • McLuhan said all new technologies are widely disliked at first. He also defined technologies as “extensions” of ourselves. Perhaps the METAverse is an extension of the human imagination. In which case we who already have an extended imagination may feel little need for VR. But if publishers open virtual offices there, I’ll happily go in to pitch my stories.

      Oh, and I just sent you an email about an immersive role-playing game you might like.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. mimispeike says:

    I stole this off Facebook:

    “I once dreamed of escaping to magical places: Movie sets; fairy kingdoms; lovely homes with lovely people. I wanted to escape the abuses, the taunts, the grinding, onrushing tide of meanness that rolled over me all through my early years. I never got to the magic castle I insisted was deep in the woods, but I escaped through words, through images on a screen. . . . The magical places that are within all of us broken, desperate people.”–Tennessee Williams

    Get to your magical place any way you can.

    Liked by 4 people

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