The immersive theater series Delusion has been scaring audiences in Los Angeles since 2011, and now the creators of The Walking Dead are bringing the show to virtual reality. Robert Kirkman’s Skybound Entertainment announced today that it will be creating a VR series based on the play that will be written and directed by Delusion creator Jon Braver.
Delusion is an interactive, immersive theater experience: audiences step into an decrepit, abandoned mansion and assume the role of the lead characters. Once inside, they walk from room to room, interact with actors, and solve puzzles as the story unfolds around them. Braver was largely inspired by adventure games growing up, and combined that influence with his own background as a Hollywood stuntman, giving Delusion productions a cinematic feel and sense of polish that have been unique in the immersive theater community. (It’s also resulted in the kind of shows where you might be kidnapped by vampires and stuck in a coffin, as my wife found out when we visited Delusion this year.)
Skybound’s VR series will be based on Delusion’s 2014 production, “Lies Within.” In that show, audiences played hardcore fans of a dark fantasy novelist. After learning their favorite writer has disappeared, they decide to break into her home, and realize the lines between fantasy and reality have become extraordinarily thin. The episodic VR series will feature the same premise, with players able to shape and shift the way they experience the story based upon the decisions they make at various points.
While a lot of mainstream attention has been focused on mediums like VR and AR, the immersive theater community has been tackling many of the same questions of presence, agency, and experiential storytelling for years. Productions ranging from Punchdrunk’s Sleep No More to Darren Lynn Bousman’s The Tension Experience have been devising new and innovative ways for audiences to not just bear witness to a story, but actually become immediately involved in it, providing a level of emotional connection that can often exceed what is possible when watching traditional mediums like film or television.
The potential is one that Skybound seems uniquely aware of. While the company was originally formed as a way to fully take advantage of The Walking Dead and Robert Kirkman’s other comic properties, it’s becoming increasingly aggressive with its multi-platform digital ambitions. Skybound has taken on everything from indie games to the YouTube Red series Scare Pew Die Pie, framing itself as a platform for creators first — with the implementation of a given medium coming second. The Delusion deal sends a clear signal that it understands the potential that the immersive theater world has already unlocked, and can use that knowledge to create a new generation of virtual experiences.
The run of Delusion’s current theatrical show, “His Crimson Queen,” has been extended until December 11th. I wasn’t joking about the coffin thing.