SAN DIEGO — Batman is a favorite among role-playing fans every year at Comic-Con International. This year, with the help of virtual reality, they can be Batman.
Comic-Con, the annual comic book convention, is expected to draw more than 130,000 people when it opens on Thursday in San Diego. And as media companies compete for the attention of all those fans, they are turning to virtual reality to gain an edge.
At the DC Entertainment booth, visitors can don the cape and cowl of the Dark Knight in Batman Arkham VR, a virtual reality video game in which players try to solve a murder. DC will also present demonstrations of Medium, a virtual reality sculpting tool for Oculus Rift. Comic book artists will put on goggles and sculpt while their creations begin to take shape on a screen behind them.
“Part of being able to draw in 2-D is being able to visualize it in 3-D,” said Jim Lee, the co-publisher of DC Entertainment, who will be one of the artists involved. “It’s the intersection of technology and art.”
Other media companies are creating original virtual reality content to promote their movies and television shows.
FX Networks is planning a virtual reality journey inspired by “American Horror Story” using HTC Vive that will incorporate 4-D, a technique that combines 3-D film with physical effects like vibrations or smells. “It will be a spine-tingling ride for anyone who is willing to put the headset on,” said Kenya Hardaway, the vice president of integrated promotions at FX Networks.
Amazon is building Amazon Village, which will include a virtual reality promotion for its series “The Man in the High Castle.” Using HTC Vive, visitors are invited to explore a world in which the Axis powers have won World War II as they search for clues to locate a missing film reel.
Warner Bros. opted for Samsung Gear VR to put visitors in the middle of a fight scene with the team of “worst heroes ever” from its upcoming film “Suicide Squad.” Fans of “Rick and Morty,” the animated series on Adult Swim, can play a game called “Rick and Morty: Virtual Rick-ality,” and MTV has similar plans to promote its “Teen Wolf” series.
Some projects, however, will eschew big thrills. In a partnership with USA Network, Universal Cable Productions, the studio behind the series “Mr. Robot,” produced a 12-minute film that provides a look at the backstory of the show’s protagonist, Elliot Anderson, played by Rami Malek. The film was made by the show’s director, Sam Esmail, and Chris Milk, the founder and chief executive of the virtual reality venture Within.
“Rather than use the medium to experiment with interactivity and action as is often the case with a lot of V.R. films, I opted to tell a smaller story that would instead explore empathy with our characters in a way ‘Mr. Robot’ fans wouldn’t be able to experience through traditional 2-D storytelling,” Mr. Esmail said by email.
The film will be presented once Thursday evening during Comic-Con and simulcast nationwide. After the presentation, however, the film will disappear. The idea was to create a communal experience that could be shared by thousands of people at the same time, Mr. Milk said.
“There is something special about something that everyone on is watching at the same time,” Mr. Milk added. “People talk about virtual reality being an isolating medium, but I don’t believe it has to be.”