Is VR becoming our Reality?
When looking at the progression of video games since their conceivement, many things may come to mind right away. Of course the consoles and depth to the game have changed, but looking at just a screenshot of the games then, compared to now will lead you to noticing the huge improvement in graphics. Compared to the popular 16 bit games of our past (such as The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past or Super Mario World) we now have stunning hyper realistic 4k games which could be mistaken for real life. With these advancements, one may ask how can gaming become more realistic, and it seems VR is the answer.
A Brief History of VR
The concept of VR isn’t recent, with Stanley Weinbaum’s 1935 novel, Pygmalion's Spectacles, telling the tale of a professor who invented goggles that let the user experience all 5 senses and interact with characters when wearing them. Though Weinbaum’s idea was fiction and not attainable by current standards, VR did emerge as an entertainment tool in the 50’s with the Sensorama which allowed for color video, sound, and even smell.
By the 80’s VR began to look like it did today, with companies such as VPL Research, Inc creating and selling the first VR goggles and Gloves, albeit not for games. This company, and their competitors, used the tools for training and created devices such as VIEW which was used to train astronauts. Eventually VR began to show up in arcades in the 90s, but it wasn’t truly available for consumer use until 2012 when Luckey launched a Kickstarter campaign for the Oculus Rift, which raised $2.4 million. Since then it has been purchased by Facebook, and other VR companies emerged such as the creators of the HTC Vive SteamVR Headset, Google, Amazon, Apple, and Sony.
For more information on the history of VR, check this out.
The Worries About VR
VR has quite a history, but that does not mean it definitely has a future. VR has been in the consumers hands for less than a decade, and during that time there have been some great games. Beat Saber allowed players to exercise and play a rhythm game by dodging and hitting targets with virtual sabers. Troller Saves the Universe and Job Simulator combined cartoon graphics with comedy to provide an easy to play experience. Half-Life Alyx, Boneworks, and Superhot were hyped up titles that had action, puzzles, and replayability, but even with that, VR never grew to be as popular as Console, PC, or Mobile Gaming.
One of the main reasons is because of the “VR Sickness” many experienced when trying VR. Nausea, dizziness, disorientation were experienced by many VR Users, due to having their eyes telling the brain they are moving while the body told them they were not. The Seattle Times expanded on this by citing that moving a character with a stick in VR is part of the problem, with pixel velocity (the speed of pixels) moving faster than the player is used to, causing the world to rush around them. A fix to this is teleportation, however there are complaints that doing so breaks the illusion.
A secondary issue is price, because although demand and interest is growing, the headsets are pricey and aren’t very common. This leads to developers being hesitant to invest their resources into VR, which leads to less demand, but still expensive systems to develop. With the cheapest gaming headset being the Oculus Quest at $199 it may not seem like as big of a commitment as a next-gen console, but you are losing out on the expansive library, accessibility, and ability to play games with others easily (since there are less VR players, less VR multiplayer Games, and that a second console would be needed for multiplayer locally). With these concerns, it is difficult to convince new users to adopt VR, but developers won’t stop trying to fix these issues.
What is Next for VR?
VR is no longer a distant dream, though it does have some issues to fix. While some are working on fixing the current issues of VR, other developers are focused on expanding the market, such as the Vive. Recently the Vive has released two new headsets, the Vive Focus 3 and Pro 2, which are going to be targeting professional VR developers. Of course these will be more costly, but it will be more visually appealing and may allow for the creation of more VR games by those using it. My fingers are crossed for what comes of VR, and while I’m not expecting to jump into OASIS (from Ready Player One), I do hope for an affordable VR future with a variety of titles to enjoy.