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Panel 1

Mediated Changes: Perspectives on Adapting Shakespeare for Fully Immersive Environments (VR) and AI

Aneta Mancewicz (Royal Holloway, University of London, UK)

Shakespeare’s works are renowned for their remarkable adaptability across a wide range of media. From drama, through film, to computer games, Shakespeare’s plays have served as an important inspiration for plots, characters, and language. In this presentation, I will discuss how Shakespeare’s dramaturgy and characterisation might contribute to the development of a VR game, using as an example a VR game adaptation of Pericles developed by Prof. Hannes Rall from Nanyang Technological University and his international team. Through an exploration of dramaturgical challenges and choices, I will consider both the affordances of Pericles for an AI supported VR game and its ability to advance the development of this medium. The presentation will also aim to explain the popularity of Shakespeare’s dramas for computer games and VR experiences, addressing broader questions about remediation, audience’s expectations, and cultural capital.

Hans Martin Rall (Nanyang Technological University Singapore)

Since 2017, the author has been working with the Shakespeare Institute in Stratford-upon- Avon to create ShakesVR (working title), a VR animation that combinesnarrative elements from Macbeth, The Tempest and A Midsummer Night’s Dream into a story that is suitable for a fully immersive experience. One of the major challenges in VR adaptation is to direct the viewer’s attention towards events in the virtual world that are essential for the understanding of the story. The reason for this problem lies simply in the fact that the users of a VR experience are not tied to a specific location but are free to look wherever they choose. This topic is widely discussed in related literature and often sparks debate if any linear storytelling should be pursued in immersive adaptations at all.

To resolve this problem, we have come up with an AI driven virtual character who will interact with the user to provide directions towards the narrative:

Whenever the viewers deviate from the path that is essential for understanding the story, the AI agent will appear and guide them back to the location where the narrative continues.

My presentation will unpack the complex creative and technological challenges that needed to be addressed to come up with a functional and aesthetically appealing solution.

Elke Reinhuber (City University of Hong Kong)

While arguing that Virtual Reality’s weakness is the solitary experience, extensive efforts have been made to connect more than a single user. However, in the room-scale VR experience ShakesVR, this deficit is reversed into a compelling advantage. Traditionally, stage plays have been set up for larger audiences with a defined distance from the actors. Modern theatre often attempts to break these boundaries, such as the convention of the fourth wall, the seating arrangements or other means of audience participation. In ShakesVR, the viewer gets even more involved and situated right in the middle of the action. The experience commences with the Three Witches, sitting around a caldron, in which a magic potion is being brewed of the bard’s plays. The user is positioned inside the magic circle, albeit as a silent observer, and transported right into the middle of the action on Prospero’s ship in The Tempest. In no other stage play would the audience be allowed to walk freely around, between the actors and examining the scenario from different angles.

My paper will unpack the interdependencies between the solitary VR mediation and its beneficial impact on perceiving a linear narrative as a fully immersive experience.