For such an innovative industry, gaming has actually stayed pretty consistent. Yes, the graphics have got better and the story lines have got deeper and the themes have got grander and the consoles themselves have become more technologically advanced, but at the end of the day you still sit in front of a TV with a controller moving around an avatar. This is gaming, and developers are constantly finding ways of making this more exciting, so what else do we need? Some people in the industry would cry out ‘VR’ at this stage and I think they need to be quiet. VR is a passing fad, that might in the future be a viable gaming alternative, but right now it’s too much in its infancy and people are jumping the gun a bit.
1.) The Situation
So let’s just begin with a quick overview of the situation as it stands today. There haven’t actually been any ground-breaking VR productions, yet, but we are assured they are all in production. The most we’ve seen is the occasional YouTube video of someone blindfolded guy stood in a Zimmer frame type harness playing a VR version of Skyrim or Fallout 4. Now, whilst this is exciting, there are some problems, which I will come onto in a bit. This is a very exciting time for traditional gamers, as not only have we had a host of exciting games already this year, but there is mass of exciting remasters on the horizon (Bioshock, Skyrim, Arkham) as well as stunning new entries in existing franchises (Final Fantasy, Battlefield, Dishonored), so my question is, do we really need VR when the traditional concept is going from strength to strength. Who needs a Batman VR game when we have the Arkham series and the upcoming Telltale Batman game?
If reports are to be believed it is making people feel really ill after only a few minutes of playtime. The human brain isn’t trained to be immersed in a world of videogame visuals and alien movement systems. If videogames have achieved actual photorealistic visuals (so that our eyes physically couldn’t tell the difference between real and fake) then the concept might work, but at the moment, there is some definite tweaking needed.
3.) Too Real
This hasn’t got any science to back it up, but it’s a feeling I have. I get terrified playing Alien: Isolation in the traditional sense, can you imagine what would happen if I played the VR version? I think I would actually die of fright, which I see as an actual problem. The human brain is easily tricked and I don’t want to think about the long term problems them might arise by tricking it into thinking it is actually about to be killed by an Xenomorph.
4.) Changes the Medium
I said at the beginning but I think VR will just be a fad. I know people have been dreaming about it since the 80s, but the truth is I just think it’s going to have a stalled start and people will forget about it. Just think about the Nintendo Wii, Kinect, PlayStation Move, the 3DS, they were all seen as innovative and ground-breaking at the time and everyone thought the industry would be forever changed, but it only took a few months for everyone to get bored and went back to the traditional way of playing, because we saw them for what they were: gimmicks. We are too accustomed to controllers and TVs now and I don’t think VR is going to survive.
5.) Other Uses
I’m just referring to console gaming here as I think the VR has some excellent uses in the fields of education and travel (visiting somewhere in VR before you go there, for example).
Finally, I just want to talk about the impracticality of it at the moment. It’s very expensive and if you want to move around without a controller (to stop you feeling sick) you need one of those Zimmer frame things I mentioned earlier and where are you going to store that in your one bedroom flat?