How Cooking Meth in Virtual Reality Can Bring People Closer Together

Upcoming “Breaking Bad” experience shines light on VR’s potential

It’s your first time cooking meth, and you’re nervous.

The kitchen is a mess, there’s red phosphorus and sodium hydroxide canisters in the sink, and your phone won’t stop vibrating on the counter because your clients are getting impatient. Your best friend is right next to you, experiencing the same rush.

The specter of the DEA busting through your door at any moment looms above like a guillotine blade. In this moment, you are Walter White. Suddenly, someone starts banging at your door, your heart starts to sink, and you look at your friend and yell “run!”

Alright. We don’t know exactly how the upcoming “Breaking Bad” virtual reality experience from Sony will play out yet, but the fact that it’s in the works is a sign of the potential that VR has for “communal storytelling.”

In an interview with TheWrap, Chris Milk — CEO of Within, a Los Angeles-based platform that specializes in story-based VR experiences — said VR has the ability to bring people closer together more than traditional media.

“Shared experiences are what bind us together as human beings,” said Milk. “We have shared experiences around art, stories, and media, but they’re almost always in witness of those things. You go to the movie theater, talk about it, and you feel closer because you witnessed the story together.”

As VR becomes more ubiquitous, those “shared experiences” will become more intense.

“Now, imagine you actually experience the story firsthand,” continued Milk. “The act of living the experience, rather than just witnessing [it], are two very different things.”

Milk isn’t affiliated with the “Breaking Bad” production, but he knows what he’s talking about. Within has developed VR experiences with “Mr. Robot,” “Saturday Night Live” and the band U2.

And science seems to back up his claim.

A 2014 study from Psychological Science showed people are more likely to bond over common experiences — even mundane events — than sharing remarkable stories with little in common. In other words, you’re better off climbing Mount Everest with your friends in VR than doing it solo in real life and telling them about it afterwards.

Despite being seen as a solitary medium, VR is most effective in a group environment. And with more high-profile projects like “Star Wars VR” on the horizon, it’ll give VR users a new opportunity to bond with their friends over their favorite stories.