The Recipe for VR Content is Posted on a Wall at MoPop

Yesterday, as I was wandered through MoPop‘s Nirvana exhibit for, oh, the hundredth time, I spotted the following list of Ingredients for a Thriving Local Music Scene, posted on a wall:

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The museum refreshes the exhibit enough that I always find something new to focus on in their hall of Kurt, Chris, and Dave. This new wall display immediately lit up the pleasure centers of my brain as I saw distinct parallels between MoPop’s presentation of the ingredients of a thriving local music scene and what’s bubbling up right now in Seattle’s VR community.

MoPop’s list of ingredients easily map to elements of the immersive media industry. Recently I made an argument that one strategy to encourage VR content creation could be to think of VR creators as bands, rather than teams. If you convert MoPop’s list of ingredients for a thriving local music scene into an ingredient list for a thriving VR content scene, I think this is what you’d get:

  1. Key Individuals. Clearly, Seattle’s VR/AR community has an abundance of talented people who are cultivating opportunities and serving as catalysts for growth and change. There are many more than I can name here, but Eva Hoerth, Trond Nilsen, Elizabeth Scallon, Budi Mulyo, Tim Reha, and the VR/AR Collective immediately spring to mind.
  2. Bands. What is a hackathon if not a gigantic battle of the bands? The more involved I get in the VR community, the more I’ve noticed that it takes about four or five people, the size of a typical band, to create something incredible together.
  3. Venues. This one’s a bit harder to map between the music and VR communities, but I’d argue that the various meetups and coworking spaces around town count as venues of sorts. And let’s not forget the magic of CNDY Factory.
  4. Record Labels. When most people think about getting VR content they think of Steam. Steam, in a way, operates sort of as a record label. I think there’s an opportunity to create methods of VR content production that mirror the best parts of record labels, while discarding their less-than-favorable terms for artists.
  5. Source of Youth. Seattle is the fastest-growing city in America, adding more than 3,000 residents per month. If any city has a steady source of youth, it’s this one. Schools are vital to providing the industry with talent, from Digipen to AIE.
  6. Modes of Communication. When the indie music scene developed in the Pacific Northwest in the eighties, communication meant a top-notch, free weekly rock and roll magazine, The Rocket. It also meant The Evergreen State College’s radio station, KAOS, and countless zines. Nowadays, we’re awash in methods of communication. In Seattle, that means, among other avenues, the Seattle VR/AR Facebook Group, Slack, and Seattlevr.us.

When we speak of an ecosystem, these are exactly the sorts of elements to which we’re referring. Who knows? Maybe twenty years from now there will be an exhibit at MoPop about the early days of Seattle’s VR scene.