In his native Italy, Flavio Parenti is best known for his work as an actor, director and producer, and is probably best known globally for his portrayal of Michelangelo in Woody Allen’s To Rome with Love. Now, however, Parenti is embarking on a new career as a video game designer, developing Loading Human, a fully immersive virtual reality game for the Oculus Rift headset in which players must explore the memories of a character diagnosed with dementia.
It’s not about the control of the story, it’s about getting into the heart and soul of the player.
K7: Players immersed in a game are essentially becoming actors in the story, so how are you using your previous experience as an actor to inform the gameplay?
FP: You are completely right. An actor is an amazing beta tester. Even more so in virtual reality. Being an actor gave me a lot of cool ideas. I come from theatre, and virtual reality is closer to a stage than a movie, there is no visual editing, no cuts. You play inside a space where things happen. I am the voice of the main role and can improvise during the game session while recording my voice in a studio. I can really put myself in the character’s shoes and his emotions, so that the player will have the closest experience possible with my acting.
K7: There’s a tension in gaming between leading the player and allowing them to drive the story. How will Loading Human address this?
FP: I think driving the narrative is an illusion. The player will never, ever truly drive the narrative, unless you create an algorithm that generates plots based on the player’s action.
But we’re talking at least 20 years from now to have a decent result. I believe it’s all about illusion. The illusion of authenticity. When you drive a player in an emotional state, you have won. It’s not about the control of the story, it’s about getting into the heart and soul of the player.
Virtual reality is going to transform a lot of things. This is the biggest media revolution after the “screen.”
K7: How important is VR and motion control to the experience, and do you see this technology as a breakthrough in terms of interactive storytelling?
FP: Virtual reality is going to transform a lot of things, not only interactive storytelling, but even passive storytelling, with real-time rendered movies, or virtual tourism, or even education or medical simulations. This is the biggest media revolution after the “screen”, and the true power of it will be unveiled in the next decades.