stocks

The stock market’s roller coaster metaphor becomes literal thanks to VR

The stock market, which is a representation of transactions and not a physical reality, is commonly described as a roller coaster. The reasons for this are understandable: that fun thing you ride at the amusement park sounds way cooler than “the aggregation of buyers and sellers,” even if that’s what the stock market actually is. Stock markets are not above using this hackneyed metaphor. Nasdaq’s website, for instance, is rife with headlines that reference roller coasters.

The aggregation of buyers and sellers does not sound cool. 

The fun-loving folks at the Wall Street Journal have, at long last, turned the Nasdaq into a real roller coaster. Well, at least a virtual reality roller coast. Playable on mobile, desktop, and with VR headsets, “Is the Nasdaq in Another Bubble?” lets you ride the exchange’s line graph through the highs and lows it has experienced over the last 21 years. Along the way there are signposts that indicate major events. If you’re taking the ride at rocket speed—yes, that’s an option—the signposts become illegible. The graph turns into a real ride, all about the visceral experience of going up and down.

VR, at least in its current incarnation, has a tendency to induce nausea. “Even Oculus CEO Brendan Iribe experienced ‘simulation sickness’ with his own product, the Oculus Rift,” ReadWrite’s Lauren Orsini reported. Though it has not caused any reported cases of simulation sickness, who could blame the Wall Street Journal’s virtual reality rollercoaster for making you nauseous? Is that not what a roller coaster should do? Is that not how you should feel after reading “Yahoo rises 150% following IPO” or “when you’re ready, activate this arrow to start the hair-rising ride just as the bubble bursts in 2000”? The Nasdaq roller coaster may make you sick, even if you’re experiencing it on your desktop, but that has everything to do with content as opposed to technology.

The Nasdaq rollercoaster, while arguably not a newsgame, is indicative of a growing trend in building engaging news products. “Illustrating some data for the reader in this way is in its infancy for our field. There’s a whole new realm of possibilities to connect readers with data stories,” the Wall Street Journal’s Roger Kenny told journalism.co.uk’s Alastair Reid. Indeed, Reid notes that Vice and the New York Times have also started using VR to tell news stories. “As with every new medium technology adds to the journalist’s storytelling toolbox,” Reid writes, “the key is in choosing the right story for the format.” The Nasdaq roller coaster, which immerses you into a world that would not otherwise have any physical incarnation suggests that a range of stories could indeed be right for this format.