Here’s a prediction for you: good stories will never stop being important. I’ve been thinking about this a lot recently, as it becomes more and more clear that the entertainment industry is going through yet another period of dramatic change.
The new medium
The transformation this time – driven, as always it seems in our modern world, by radically new technology – is from creating experiences that are simply watched, to ones that we can now interact with. I really do believe that now we’re moving rapidly towards an era in the entertainment industry where people will no longer be viewers – but instead they will be immersed in a new medium that puts them right at the heart of the creative process.
But I’ll say it again – good stories will remain an important part of this new revolution. Anyone who has sat through a terrible 3D film will know that bad movies or bad computer games won’t be saved by immersive Virtual Reality, or enhanced by Augmented Reality – the fundamentals of basic storytelling will remain. But I also think that one of the most important changes in the industry, however, will be who will be telling these stories. One of the most fundamental changes that the VR and AR revolution will bring is that it will put the narrative in the hands of the audience, and ask them to participate directly in the process of creating their own experience. I think that is a hugely exciting prospect.
Making the unreal real
It’s also clear that the three big revolutions to come in the entertainment industry – Artificial Intelligence, VR and AR, are all interlinked. I’m absolutely fascinated by how AI is developing, and it is already starting to play a much bigger role in making the experiences that audiences get from a VR or AR device even more realistic. Artificial Intelligence technology is at the point where it is able to enhance everything from the physical environment you see around you when you wear a VR or AR device, to depth perception. These subtleties are fundamentally important, because they make any simulation a deeper and more immersive experience.
So, what are the opportunities that these changes within the entertainment industry offer? Well, I think that one of the biggest is the potential to bring audiences and creators closer together. This is a process that has already begun in many ways – compare the god-like distance of the stars in Hollywood’s Golden Era to the relative accessibility of actors today: social media, for all its pros and cons, has been a great leveller. But I also strongly believe that technologies such as AR and VR can take this to the next level, making audiences a part of the creative process itself. They will be viewers, experiencers, and co-creators, and so their expectations will be very different. This idea of changing audience expectations in turn presents fresh challenges for our industry, ones that we have to be ready to address.
The new storytelling
But technologies such as AI, AR and VR, I think, will also bring us closer together in other ways. By making the experience of consuming the products of the entertainment industry ever more immersive, compelling and immediate, we have a huge opportunity to powerfully communicate our ideas. These technologies put incredibly powerful new tools at the disposal of the new storytellers, allowing them to speak with audiences (if that is even a big enough word for them in this new reality) in more and more compelling ways.
And that, as I said at the start, will remain a fundamentally important part of our industry – something that has been, and I believe always will be, what the entertainment industry is all about: the art of telling a great story, whatever the medium.