Dramatic narrative has been part of the storytelling tradition since antiquity. It has been adapted into the familiar forms like plays, movies, novels, and situation comedies. These new forms evolved to accommodate the peculiar opportunities and constraints of new media. The advent of virtual reality (VR) marks another new medium; one that will give rise to yet another kind of dramatic narrative (see Table 8.1).
Rudimentary efforts to define the new form have begun. VR narrative is a principal goal of the Carnegie Mellon OZ project ( Bates, 1992). Bates, the project leader of OZ, said he expects "VR to join the novel, cinema, and television as a broadly successful artistic medium" (p. 134).
This discussion explores the nature of a VR drama and how it differs from other narrative forms. The principle underlying this discussion is that VR creates a world that may be occupied in a way not possible in other media. In particular, VR allows the audience to walk on the stage of the drama and interact with the fictional world. This interactive quality conflicts with the exacting structure of drama, and the conflict between structure and interactivity is a decisive factor. The interactivity must be constrained to preserve the dramatic structure; in other words, being audience to a VR drama is essentially passive with respect to the story. However, the audience may interact with many other elements of the world of the story. This level of limited interaction will give rise to VR drama's unique narrative qualities.
The following description of a VR drama is theoretical in character. Because of the novelty of VR and the limitations of existing technology, nothing of the sort has yet been created. A VR drama requires a platform