Stage Magic as a Performative Design Principle for VR Storytelling
Keywords:Virtual Reality, Aesthetics of Play, Magic Design, Media Studies
This article examines The VOID’s Star Wars: Secrets of the Empire (2017) VR arcade attraction, and analyzes the intermedial magic principles employed by co-founder and magician Curtis Hickman to create the illusion of a fictive world with impossible space and liveness. I argue that The VOID (Vision of Infinite Dimensions) functioned like nineteenth century magic theaters run by Georges Méliès and others, by employing magic principles of misdirection that directed player attention towards the aesthetics of an illusion, and away from the mechanics of the effects generating technology. Narrative framing and performative role play transported multiple players into a believable Star Wars immersive experience, creating an aesthetics of the impossible that reflected the goal of many stage magic tricks, and was foundational to trick films in the cinema of attractions of the early twentieth century. Using game studies concepts like Huizinga’s magic circle and theatre arts concepts like Craig’s über-marionette, this article suggests that The VOID and other stage magic approaches to VR, like Derren Brown’s Ghost Train (2017), are a new medium for participatory theatre that incorporate immersive features from both cinema and games.
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Copyright (c) 2021 Christopher Maraffi
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