VR Pornography: How its Success Could Influence the Film Industry
In the latest news from the "because of course that is a thing" department, there is now a website devoted to aggregating VR pornography.
Streaming content and VOD are the biggest developments in media since home video, with VR and AR close behind. But there's already such a glut of VR porn that VR industry website VentureBeat is reporting the launch of the first aggregation site for VR "adult entertainment" by pioneers GameLink, veterans of the internet porn racket for almost 25 years.
Jeff Dillon, VP of the site's management company, told VentureBeat, "The time has come for GameLink to move forward as the first aggregate for consumers desiring the VR experience. This new technology is revolutionizing the entertainment industry, and GameLink is on the forefront once again." (GameLink was one of the first companies to successfully monetize the internet. )
So, what does this have to with Hollywood and indie film? Well, as anyone who saw Boogie Nights knows, pornography's embrace of VHS tapes led to massive profits (and artistic disappointment for Burt Reynolds).
Though Hollywood doesn't like to admit it, its seedier cousin has, historically, made just as much money as its more legitimate counterpart. Porn has proved resilient during periods of recession and maintained a record of adapting to technological change with speed and acuity. Porn also has its own equivalent of the Oscars, which David Foster Wallace hilariously/disturbingly wrote about in 1997.
"The movie industry followed porn’s lead."
According to Damon Brown, author of Porn & Pong: How Grand Theft Auto, Tomb Raider and other Sexy Games Changed Our Culture, “It seems so obvious: If we invent a machine, the first thing we are going to do—after making a profit—is use it to watch porn. When the projector was invented roughly a century ago, the first movies were not of damsels in distress tied to train tracks or Charlie Chaplin-style slapsticks; they were stilted porn shorts called stag films. VHS became the dominant standard for VCRs largely because Sony wouldn’t allow pornographers to use Betamax; the movie industry followed porn’s lead."
Just like VHS technology, VR requires the purchase and use of a new system in order to have the immersive experience (and, just like VHS technology, there is a high degree of consumer choice when it comes to the price-point and quality). But how will Hollywood use VR for storytelling purposes? According to the Wall Street Journal, "Every genre, it seems, is fair game for an immersive upgrade. Current and upcoming projects include Pixar-like animated works and sharp-eyed political documentaries." At this point, VR experiences are much shorter than feature-length films, though this will no doubt have changed drastically within the next 18 months or so, as prices come down. Right now, though, anyone with a viewer can watch VR content on YouTube and there are VR movies making the round at festivals.
Considering other developments, like Google's roll out of its new holistic VR platform, with open-source, turnkey solutions for VR content creators, the adult industry's parallel early adoption of VR technology will have the same trickle-down effect as its embrace of home video: increased consumer engagement with VR technology; lots of money; and, of course, continuing unease about the dehumanizing effects of pornography, as well as the continuation of the long, fraught, and synergistic relationship between Hollywood and the Valley.
So, pretty much business as usual.