Storytelling vs. Storyliving: Building VR Content


Storytelling is a concept that is familiar to anyone who has worked in marketing and content creation. Present a narrative to the audience that has a beginning, middle, and a conclusion or call to action. Lead the audience by the hand to see the message you want them to see.

It is understood that the narrative format has applications across every medium – except, as a new Google study has discovered, in VR content.

Google explored how virtual reality affects and changes the concept of storytelling into entirely new territories. They found that nature of the medium doesn’t allow content creators to apply the traditional storytelling/messaging format to their messaging and brand experiences in VR.

The reason? The user is an active participant in the content experience, making them like an audience member watching a stage play while standing on the stage with the actors. This lead Google to coin a new term for talking to an audience in VR: storyliving.

The concept of storyliving challenges the “beginning, middle, end” content structure. Instead, Google explains that storyliving in VR content requires three phases that replace the beginning, middle, and end. Each phase centers on the experience of the VR audience, informing what the content needs to deliver:

  1. “INITIATION: The viewer becomes accustomed to his or her new environment and embodies a new form. The initial immersion may not offer narrative density but provides richly complex and embodied sensory information that can leave a deep mark on the viewer’s body and mind.

  2. EXPLORATION: Once the viewer has been initiated, he or she explores the space, sometimes beyond the narrative, to seek out salient details. Emboldened by this sense of agency, he or she acts on their instincts and finds pleasure in their sense of control. Their body is the central medium for interacting with and finding significance in the virtual space.

  3. MAKING SENSE: As the experience concludes, the viewer transports back to reality and seeks meaning from their VR experience. He or she draws on prior life experiences, seeks out information to provide additional context, and incorporates the perspective they’ve experienced into their worldview.”

Though Google’s study was focused mainly on content creators in journalism and film, their conclusion has applications for all VR content, including ad experiences crafted by marketers building a brand experience.

Instead of standard app or ad experience, you must build sensory-rich environments that immerse the user in the world you have created.

You must them give them the freedom to explore the space you created which means coming up with new ways of delivering your message to them.

Lastly, it is still important to remember the user is still anchored in the real world. Give them something to take away from their VR experience.

You can read all of Google’s study on VR and the concept of storyliving here

Learn more about introducing your brand to the emerging virtual reality space here

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