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Virtual Reality Film Festival: Trust Us, VR Is Not Just for Gamer Geeks

To make VR “the dominant art form,” it needs support from non-gamers, too.

Eric Johnson for Re/code

Virtual reality video games are coming, and some of them seem like they’re going to be a lot of fun. But as advocates of the emerging technology like to say, games are just the start.

Attendees of a VR film festival Tuesday night in San Francisco got a taste of what’s ahead. The traveling festival, which is in the middle of a 10-city tour, was organized by VR video agency Kaleidoscope and video hosting platform Vrideo.

 Attendees of the Kaleidoscope VR film festival watch videos on the Samsung Gear VR.
Attendees of the Kaleidoscope VR film festival watch videos on the Samsung Gear VR.
Eric Johnson for Re/code

“A lot of people hear VR, and they think of these hardcore gaming experiences,” Vrideo CEO Alex Rosenfeld said in an interview with Re/code. “We definitely have gameplay videos, but we also have nature videos, and travel, and journalism.”

One of the most popular pieces currently on Vrideo, he said, is Ryot News’ saddening mini-documentary about the plight of Nepal, produced just days after the country was hit by a 7.8 magnitude earthquake earlier this year. It, along with a video about war-torn Syria and a first-person account of the 2005 terrorist attacks on London, shared floor space at the event with more than a dozen other short films and experiences ranging from animated stories to abstract music visualizations.

So, depending on what order you watched things in, it was possible to go from an all-too-real bombed-out street in Syria to an adamantly surreal visualization of a cafe where everything and everyone looked like a Vincent van Gogh painting. And then from there, just for good measure, you could watch a cartoon called “Butts,” which was, spoiler alert, about characters who enjoyed farting glitter out of their butts.

 VR film festival co-organizer René Pinnell addresses the crowd.
VR film festival co-organizer René Pinnell addresses the crowd.
Eric Johnson for Re/code

This whiplash-inducing diversity is meant to showcase a bigger point: That VR isn’t just this or just that, but rather can — eventually — become a medium all its own. Film festival co-organizer and Kaleidoscope co-founder René Pinnell said virtual reality could be to the next 100 years what was film was to the past century, “the dominant art form.”

“This is potential,” he said, “It’s not a certain thing. It’s going to take all of us chasing that thing down, spending long hours, tearing our hair out, trying to figure out how to move people with this medium, to help it reach its potential.”

This article originally appeared on Recode.net.