Movies with Branching Narratives


One of the many reasons I have always been interested in VR, as a storyteller, is that it has many unique characteristics that traditional cinema does not possess. I am not debating that one is better than the other, rather, I am excited about crafting stories, even worlds, where the audience isn't just passively consuming the content and only ever looking in one direction.

Think about it: in your everyday life, when not watching traditional TV or cinema, do you sit practically still for hours on end in your free time, never looking at the world around you? Of course you don't, so why confine oneself to the now century-plus old artifice of cinema and TV?

As audiences, we've been conditioned to accept that "this is it," and that "is all there is." When trying anything new, it can sometimes feel weird, but until you try it (sometimes more than once!), you will never really know for certain, and you would be missing out on what could prove to be truly spectacular entertainment and even memories.

I want you to take advantage of this new medium. I want you to feel like you are there. Not only that, I want you, the audience, if so inclined, to take control (aka "agency), and define the narrative for yourself. If you did or didn't like the narrative you undertook, but found the experience of it appealing, you can always return to take another route and see what happens the next time.

I recognize that this form of storytelling is not for all filmmakers, including audiences, and it is certainly not suited for every story. However, for those wanting to experience something different, for those who like games and/or interactivity with their content, or if you are the kind of person who will watch the same motion picture over and over again - wouldn't it be cool to be genuinely surprised by an enjoyable new twist the next time you rewatched a movie or series? 

This concept of "branching narratives" (or plotlines), is not anything new. If you were a child of the 80's, chances are you encountered one of those "choose your own adventure" books. The underlying concept here is the same, only technology has finally caught up to make this kind of content seamless, no matter if it's traditional 16x9, Cinematic VR, music videos, etc. 

I invite you to take a dive into a New Yorker article on the topic, and let me know what you think in the comments.