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Virtual Reality – Flash in the Pan or the Way Forward?

By Yoamiwaii, Feb 25 2017 09:00AM

[ARTICLE BY: Amiwaii]

The first I really heard about virtual reality becoming an aspect of gaming was at EGX 2015 when I sat in on a talk that addressed the prospects of what virtual reality gaming held, especially for indie gaming developers. They discussed what the style of gaming could do for our experiences of gaming in general, and how it could completely revolutionise the way we think about gaming classifications – like say, a horror game playable via a VR headset could end up being a much more terrifying sensory experience that could bump up the PEGI rating compared to a non-VR version. It was definitely a fascinating subject to delve into, particularly with how such equipment could increase our immersion in gaming and how that would affect us compared to just sitting with a controller and staring at a screen.

The first time I heard about VR itself was probably through VR Troopers (if anyone remembers that show – an offshoot of Power Rangers is how to describe it if you have no idea what I’m talking about), and that probably wasn’t exactly a perfect example of virtual reality. Virtual reality was always a very science fiction concept that would seemingly allow us to step out of our own reality via some form of technology and into an augmented space that could depict anywhere we wanted, and all without leaving the confines of our home.

With the recent release of Resident Evil 7, which has been a pin up for the whole VR experience, it has brought to the forefront of my mind what VR could possibly do for us down the line – maybe not just for gaming, but for use in other ways. Though it also brought along some cynicism about whether or not VR is just going to end up confined to the history textbooks.

In a related subject, it was recently in the news that major manufacturers are starting to discontinue production of 3D televisions. It didn’t seem like all that long ago that they were hyping up 3D TV’s as the way forward for our viewing pleasure – I particularly remember them pushing it six to seven years ago in a big way. Not that I ever felt particularly drawn to get a 3D TV myself. It was a rather fancy commodity for the most part that worked with some films that had been made for 3D viewing, but otherwise it was honestly a very forgettable thing. It has to be said that 3D in cinema has existed in some form since the early 20th century. Particularly in the 80’s and 90’s there were attempts to popularise the 3D experience (my only lame example would be Jaws 3D to give you a scope on this), but it wasn’t until the 2000’s that they really started having some sort of success with it. And then you had to weigh up whether the 3D experience was really that much better than what you could simply see in 2D. Was it really worth putting on a pair of glasses just to have a few significant moments of screen imagery seemingly integrating into your spatial realm? I would say most of the time, you don’t really care about whether some aspects of what you’re seeing on screen is more emphasised visually in that way. And honestly, I don’t want to be sat in the cinema or in front of a television with special glasses on when I’m going to get pretty much the same sort of experience seeing the film in 2D anyway. That’s probably my own downer view on it – I’m sure many of you out there have had fantastic experiences with 3D. I think that when it comes down to it, the presentation of the movie itself should be able to immerse us and give us the visual impact of whatever message it wishes to convey without too much forced emphasis or specialised trickery. It is my concerns on the 3D front that really makes me turn to VR and wonder what it could offer that could become more than a gimmick.

Where 3D may have failed in some respects, VR might be able to capitalise on in a more immersive way. This could really be a progressive step towards practical application with how we engage with games and movies. I mean, come on, who hasn’t ever thought at some point – whether it be as a child or adult – that they’ve love to be a part of a movie or game? Certainly, developers could capitalise on our fantasies through the use of virtual reality, making it so we could became an active part of whatever is unfolding before us, or just makes us front row spectators within the same virtual space.

Imagine what this technology could do for people who are unable to leave their houses for whatever reason e.g. illnesses or disabilities; that they can experience the world through a device without ever having to leave their homes. Maybe it could be used as a new form of communication; for example, giving us a space to hang out with our friends from around the world where it almost feels like they’re in the same room as us.

On a side note, it also makes me think of that old TV show Knightmare and how that would be a great thing to be brought back with the virtual reality set up. Who didn’t want to be that helmeted kid walking through those different stages, being guided by our friends to make progression?

Then again, when I think about all these things I get horrible Matrix vibes of living in a false reality and people ending up losing some sense of self, almost becoming zombies who disengage with the real world – but now I’m just going into a science fiction movie plot stuff.

I also see this being an expensive flash in the pan. That the opportunities to capitalise on the capabilities of VR could be horribly squandered if developers are not careful. We’ve got promising early stages of what we can experience in VR, but can they make practical advances with it to make it a profitable venture? Can it become something people want to invest in and not have to consign to the bargain bin when the commodity wears off? VR has to prove that taking us to another sensory level is worth our emotional investment, something that goes beyond just playing a game in general (or watching a movie for that matter!).

It’s early days at the moment, and it does require time to grow and expand if there is a definite future in it. I certainly want to see it expand and give us new perspectives in gaming and other mediums, though I hope that it can deal with issues like motion sickness effectively, as that would be one major concern for myself, as I’m sure it would be for many others. I’d rather not have to go through the experience with a sick bucket on standby.

If there are any VR boffins out there who want to share their knowledge, or anyone who just wants to get in on the VR subject and give their opinion, it would be great to hear from you to see what your standpoint is on the future of virtual reality in the likes of gaming and movies.

Image base © Shutterstock.

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