Stranger Things VR game co-written by UCSC’s Samantha Gorman launches in partnership with Netflix, Meta

Graphic for the Stranger Things VR showing Vecna's skull-like face and Eleven.
Stranger Things VR is a psychological horror/action game set in the world of the hit Netflix series.
Portrait of Samantha Gorman wearing a red shirt with black details.
UC Santa Cruz Assistant Teaching Professor of Computational Media Samantha Gorman (photo by Carolyn Lagattuta.)

A new virtual reality (VR) game set in the world of Netflix’s hit series Stranger Things launches today — and UC Santa Cruz Assistant Teaching Professor of Computational Media Samantha Gorman is a key creative mind behind it as the game’s co-writer and narrative director.

In Stranger Things VR, players explore the psychological horror/action game as series villain Vecna, diving into his transformation into a villain and offering new and never-seen-before perspectives on events from the Netflix series. Players can wield telekinetic powers, build up a formidable hive mind of demo-creatures, open and close portals to other realms, and invade the psyches of other characters such as Will Byers and Billy Hargrove. 

The game is a result of deep collaboration between Netflix and independent creative studio Tender Claws, where Gorman is the co-lead. Tender Claws has become known for blending original and multi-layered storytelling and critically examining the very technology used in the delivery of that storytelling. The studio has several award-winning projects including the VR game Virtual Virtual reality and the AR mobile game Tendar. 

Gorman specializes in interactive narrative, world building, and directing for games which for this project means that she co-lead the idea for the game, directed voice actors, and led the script’s writing team. Development on Stranger Things VR began in 2020, giving the Tender Claws team valuable insight into the series’ narrative development for 2022’s Season 4, which informed the game and allowed them to flesh out the characters. The game is available for play in both VR and mixed reality on the Meta Quest 3, Quest 2, and Quest Pro, with future platforms to be announced.

Gorman, who also is affiliated with UCSC’s Arts Division, said that this game reflects her passions for interactive narrative, immersive world design, and directing, which she brings to her teaching of UCSC engineering and arts students. 

“This work can only be done at the interdisciplinary edge,” Gorman said. “Students from engineering can learn a lot about design and world construction through the mise-en-scène [theatrical design and arrangement] and understanding theater, especially if they are interested in immersive spaces. Students in theater and writing can learn about the physical act of creating worlds and the construction of systems that are used for interactive narrative.”

Gorman will bring her experience in the interdisciplinary world of VR to the creation of a production on campus in collaboration with students as well as a Spring course that explores the theatrical implications of games and performing with an audience.  

“I’m looking forward to collaborating with faculty and students across the communities of arts and engineering on future work.”