About the Aesthetic
As I designed Belongings, the primary audience I had in mind was people new to VR. I want to bring people to the medium, encourage them to understand that virtual reality isn't just something for gamers or a toy for kids. That's a preconceived notion I've encountered frequently among the uninitiated. Making real time walking around the virtual space as the mode of locomotion as well as limiting the interaction tool to the controller trigger are meant to make the piece easy to experience without a need for prior familiarity with VR equipment, possibly confusing instructions from a docent, or a written introduction no one will read anyway. To make it even simpler, I plan to transition from controller to hand tracking as soon as that's a viable option.
Similarly, my choice of primitives as the vector for the narrative is intentional. The cubes represent not only the objects pictured on them, but the memories associated with these objects. The rolling pin is not only a rolling pin. It is a specific rolling pin at a specific point in the life of the protagonist. Each cube is a box symbolically holding a memory. I believe an audience without knowledge of industry conventions will accept the aesthetic as presented, understanding it for the metaphor it is. Due to the pandemic, playtesting with such an audience was impossible.
The only beta testers available for the piece thus far have been VR professionals. To a one, they could not get beyond seeing the cubes as placeholders for 3D models, although they otherwise enjoyed the experience. When I explained the larger context, it made sense to them and they reevaluated their responses to the aesthetic positively. Significantly, the explanation was required.
I hope to test my theory of the new audience with fresh eyes by demoing my target audience in an LBE installation setting as soon as practicable.