If a person were to walk in to almost any amusement park, they could surely find some sort of mixed reality experience. Often these consist of a combination of moving seating and 3D projection. While rides like these may seem futuristic and involving cutting-edge technology, their ideology actually traces back to the very beginning of cinema itself. See, one of the first known depictions of camera movement in cinema was used to display the movement of a train in Départ de Jérusalem en chemin de fer (Leaving Jerusalem by Railway, Alexandre Promio, 1897). This was a phantom ride, a genre of early film that simply captured motion and relayed it back to the audience in the cinema. The term phantom comes from the fact that the train was not shown in the film, as the display of the ride and geography was the main purpose of the footage. The phantom ride can be thought of as a sub-genre of sorts of a form of cinema that dominated the medium during its first ten or so years. Films from this era were what film theorist Tom Gunning brilliantly defined as the Cinema of Attractions. This form was not as concerned with its narrative means so much as it was in its ability to show something, what Gunning describes as “less as a way of telling stories than as a way of presenting a series of views to an audience, fascinating because of their illusory power” (Gunning, 64). The “illusory power” that Gunning mentions is not so much discussing the content of the images as it is their direct presentation to the audience. This power applies in equal sense to something seemingly realistic, such as Promio’s train ride, and something more fantastical like the titular journey in Georges Méliès’s Le Voyage dans la Lune (A Trip to the Moon, Méliès, 1902). Once narrative film became the most popular form of film, Gunning states that the Cinema of Attractions mostly went underground and into avant-garde. I believe, however, that the Cinema of Attractions has seen a further development in the last few years with the creation and release of virtual reality. VR has closely followed in the footsteps of its cinematic predecessor with an exhibitionist style of early distribution and content that revolved around its presentation to the audience. While Gunning sought to dissect films from over 100 years ago, he may have inadvertently developed a theory of the direction of VR technology of the future.
In an attempt to evolve the Cinema of Attractions, I define a new term for interactable artwork, which I call the Cinema of Interactions. This is similar to Gunning’s cinematic term, but it positions the interaction between the spectator and the art as the main attraction. To further develop this idea, I have created a virtual reality application of my own. It combines some of the best elements from both VR and console-based games to create something new. The application in question is a rhythm-matching game inspired by Beat Saber and Audiosurf. It utilizes gameplay akin to Beat Saber while implementing an audio analysis system similar to the one seen in Audiosurf. In doing this, it creates an adaptable world and experience that feels unique to each individual music preferences and playthroughs.
Level of Honors
summa cum laude
Amy Ongiri and Joseph Gregg
Luedtke, Samuel James, "Video Games, Virtual Reality, and the Progression of the Cinema of Interactions" (2020). Lawrence University Honors Projects. 153.