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Guillermo del Toro: Virtual reality can learn from video games

Director Guillermo del Toro already has three VR experiences under his belt.Director Guillermo del Toro already has three VR experiences under his belt.
Director Guillermo del Toro already has three VR experiences under his belt.Legendary Entertainment

No one in Hollywood has embraced virtual reality like Guillermo del Toro, the acclaimed filmmaker behind Pan’s Labyrinth, Pacific Rim, and the upcoming Crimson Peak.

Del Toro has had his hand in every medium out there, including video games, comic books, novels, films, and television. He believes VR will evolve with the new generation of consumers who will grow up with this form of interactive storytelling and gaming, just as current kids are growing up with tablets and smartphones.

“The attention span and the capacity to concentrate with every generation changes,” del Toro says. “We are much more ADD than our parents, and our kids are going to be much more so than us. One of the things that you do in an immersive world, if you can create a sandbox that is open enough in a VR experience like you can do in a video game, is to guide the narrative through action and through obstacles and through things that make you go a certain route. You can learn a lot from video games as you explore longer format VR.”


Del Toro is a very hands-on creator, and VR is no exception. At last year’s San Diego Comic Con, fans got a chance to try del Toro’s Pacific Rim: Jaeger Pilot, an Oculus Rift VR experience that let players control their own giant Jaeger robot. And at this year’s show, del Toro worked with FX Networks to bring the vampire horror TV series The Strain to virtual life on the Samsung Gear VR. He also supervised the Google Cardboard Crimson Peak VR experience in conjunction with Legendary Pictures.

“We had a very good experience with VR with Pacific Rim with the Oculus Rift and we did another one for The Strain and one more for Crimson Peak,” del Toro says. “VR gives you the chance to create that immersive brief narrative in which you can participate in that world.”

“The thing I like the most about VR, honestly, is looking around,” continues del Toro. “It’s almost like in video games, where you have this huge open world sandbox that you can actually stay in one place and loiter…just waiting for something to happen, or nothing to happen. That’s one of the reasons why Shadow of the Colossus remains one of my favorite video games of all time. It’s also a little bit like in the Haunted Mansion at Disneyland. The thing that I love the most [about that attraction] is waiting in the gallery in-between elevators when I’m alone with the portraits. That’s really creepy.”

With del Toro ready to direct Pacific Rim 2 this fall, he’s open to exploring VR video games with that franchise. If the short Jaeger Pilot demo is any indication, that game could help drive sales of headsets when the movie opens on Aug. 7, 2017.

And if more directors follow in del Toro’s footsteps, movie-licensed games could become must-play entertainment again across the new VR headsets that are entering the market soon.