Virtual Reality: A Vision Of The Future?

explores whether virtual reality really is the future of gaming

Maurizio Pesce

Maurizio Pesce

Since gaming’s inception, it’s been ripe with a seemingly endless amount of popular fads. For the younger generation of gamers in particular, these fleeting trends are most clearly displayed in the Wii’s early motion controls, with the Wii having arrived on 16 November 2006, meaning that by the time of publication it will be a decade old. The Wii began then a race to develop motion control systems across all the main console platforms, but what it also signified was the beginning of a what was assumed would be a revolution in how we will actually play video games. For Nintendo the future was in motion controls, and for a while Microsoft and Sony went along, with the Kinect and the PlayStation Move releasing some years later. As it were though, this would not be the last attempt at changing the way we play games.

But with all the
promises VR made,
has there really been
much of a change
in gaming?

In 2012, a company called Oculus began a Kickstarter for the revolutionary technology that is virtual reality, or VR, and the gaming community flocked to donate, giving it $2.5m, and generating a massive amount of media coverage. With the spike in interest that Oculus generated, the major companies Sony and Microsoft of course jumped on the band wagon, along with HTC who came out with their Vive headset. Now virtual reality gaming is no far flung, futuristic idea, it’s a present reality. But with all the promises VR made, the hype and the future we all assumed it had, has there really been much of a change in gaming?

Two of the three VR headsets currently known to the public have been released, with the exception being Sony’s Morpheus which is set to be cheaper and have lower specs than its competitors, but there really hasn’t been much fanfare. Like many, when I sit down to game, I still break out a controller or boot up my PC. I’m fully in the knowledge that VR exists, and I am completely content without it. At the time of writing, I’m fairly confident that this can be said for the vast majority of gamers. Why, then, has VR not made the impact it so promised? The reality, VR gaming faces a multitude of problems. Remember, this isn’t the first time it’s been attempted, back in the 1980’s and 1990’s many companies tried and failed to make VR a hit, and unfortunately they ran into the same problems that to an extent plague VR to this day.

Firstly, it’s massively expensive. Obviously as time progresses the technology gets cheaper, but it still requires funds to develop, and the current price stands at around £600 to £700 dependant on the headset you buy – completely out of the price range of anyone who is not a hardcore VR fan. Secondly, VR requires powerful hardware. There’s a reason Sony’s Morpheus headset is scaled down compared to the others, the reason being the PS4 would not be able to handle rendering the two screens inside the headset, which make it doubly intensive to run. This in turn puts up the price and then whoever can afford it has to have a sufficiently powerful PC to run it, which again costs vast amounts of money. Finally, as with most gaming hardware, even with the promise of VR, it is still a fad. Although it has so far avoided being labelled one, it doesn’t take close scrutiny to realise. At first, like the Wii, the idea is novel and worth investing in, but after a couple of weeks? Months? Will you still want to put in the effort of clearing a room, putting on some goggles and moving your head around when all you really want to do is relax and play a game?

This is the inherent problem with VR. With all its media hype and dazzling technology we failed to see it for what it truly was: a fad. A brief fling with the futuristic idea of plugging ourselves into the machine. Of course VR will still exist in the future, with many applications aside from gaming, and I’m sure some experiences will be the better for it. But will everybody be sat at home, plugged in?

No. They’ll still be flicking birds on their phones.

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