So you’re about to dive into the unknown and produce or commission your first virtual reality experience. The question now is, who should be on your team? Who will design it, make it, and take it to market?
I’m going to argue that it’s worth thinking about this carefully, and not necessarily picking the people who might seem ‘obvious’. Why? Because VR is all about perspective, and the only way to appeal to broader, mainstream audiences is to broaden the perspective from which your product comes from.
Let’s start by looking at this from an innovation adoption perspective. You’re probably familiar with this curve (image below) – it is officially named Roger’s Bell Curve. We see that the vast majority of the population are not early adopters or innovators. Moving along this curve is always a challenge. However, the part of it that is notoriously tough for organisations who are selling something new is crossing the chasm from Early Adopter to Early Majority.
Right now, VR is in the early adoption stage, however, for publishers, I imagine many of you will want to access the early majority. This means you have a particular challenge on your hand. You need to cross the chasm.
There are many ways you could approach this chasm. But when you’re in the VR creation process, the most fundamental thing you can do is get a broad range of people on your production team, equally spread across the hierarchy. The dream team should either be representative of your target audience, or of the population – or be a fusion of the two.
The reason why I think this especially applies to VR is because of its point-of-view characteristic. Assumptions, stereotypes, and clumsy representations of minority groups can feel not just clunky and jarring, but severely uncomfortable. That presence that VR brings makes all the difference.
In my experience, audience perception to different VR experience varies wildly – more so than other mediums. People have come out of VR experiences I’ve worked on with a vast array of perspectives on what it is they just encountered. Like real life, the individual VR participant’s identity comes heavily into play in regard to their interpretation of events. We really found this when we made No Small Talk for the BBC – a 360 talkshow specifically aimed at millennial women.
Let us now zoom out a bit and look at the potential impact of VR’s early days being healthy, balanced and diverse. Most modern art forms were born at a time when society was patriarchal, often racist and discriminated against minorities (even unwittingly). We know that the society a medium establishes itself in greatly influences its development; from tropes to themes to the language used.
We have a golden opportunity with VR to establish a new art form at a time when society is less discriminatory than ever. We don’t need to bring the baggage with us. We have the opportunity now to foster a new medium that appeals to broad, diverse audiences – and will most likely result in better content.
And publishers should be helping us lead that approach.