Every year over one hundred thousand people converged to celebrate all of geek culture at San Diego Comic-Con. The convention has become about more than simply comic book culture, it has also grown to include new technology that will redefine what defines fun. Modern audiences increasingly expect connectivity and accessibility as part of the entertainment experience,and it looks like those elements will soon become a regular part of our storytelling vernacular.
At a panel during SDCC, creators from the worlds of both film and interactive entertainment hosted a conference titled, Interactive Twilight Zone and Horror VR: An In Depth Look At The Genre Storytelling Game Changers. The discussion consisted of a diverse panel of storytellers, including Eric Shamlan (Sleepy Hollow VR), Justin Denton (Beyond Crimson Peak), Guy Shelmerdine (Catatonic), Shane Small (Exploding Kittens), who all explained their shared vision for the future of storytelling.
A large portion of the discussion was dedicated to future of interactivity and the potential of audience participation in storytelling. Whether it's simply making your own choices, like with a Telltale game, or by wearing a VR headset and being fully immersed in 360 degree horror movie, there is an endless future for the medium. Denton explained how filmmakers and audiences will eventually embrace the change.
"A story told through experiences as opposed to a story just being laid out in front of you. Once you learn to embrace that, you throw away most of the tools in your tool set. Or most of your alphabet even. And you go 'okay, I gotta learn to form words again, much less phrases.'"
Interactive storytelling, despite being around for decades in simplified forms, is still in its infancy. In the era of swipe phones, it's inevitable that interactivity will eventually move from becoming novelty to the industry expectation.
However Small, creative director at Interlude, isn't creating straight-forward VR experiences like the other filmmakers. He specializes in interactive storytelling. His next venture should grab the attention of casual audiences, as he is partnering with CBS and Ken Levine, the creator of the blockbuster video game Bioshock, to bring the Twilight Zone into the interactive space.
While the specifics on the new project are still vague, Small did explain his thoughts on the original series and how he is approaching the new project.
"It's [original Twilight Zone] about race, it's about the social mark and economics of that time. And the reason why those work for us now, is because some of those things we are still dealing with. But they're a reflection of that time period...about that truth. I think that what we need to do with Twilight Zone is start telling the stories that reflect our society. Our truth. Let us talk about politics. Lets talk about race. Let's let it be a time capsule of our society."
Rod Serling's classic television show ran from 1959 to 1964 and featured stars ranging from William Shatner to Buster Keaton, in an anthology series known for having stories with twist endings. To his credit, Serling used the science fiction genre to subvert the television codes of the time, often telling stories that brought to light social justice.
Small intends on creating an interactive narrative that will eventually be available in a wide variety of platforms. Each episode will lend itself to multiple plays, due to the branching narratives dependent on the viewer's participation. The opportunity to revisit Rod Serling's classic show and bring it to a modern audience in a brand new medium, is too intriguing to overlook.
While there is no release date or further specifics on the Twilight Zone experience, expect to hear much more about it in the near future.