Virtual Reality: The Next Step For Gaming?

The question on many gamer’s minds is what’s next for the future of gaming? How can it possibly be topped from the pristine graphics of the Playstation 4 and the Xbox One? Sony’s answer to this is through Project Morpheus, a virtual reality headset that provides full immersion into your gaming experience. It looks like donning the headset and immersing ourselves into a simulated world is making a resurgence.

Of course the brief VR boom in the 90’s, which never really caught on due to the technology just not being ready. People preferred the simplicity of the Gameboy rather than the eye-melting redness of the Virtual Boy.



The Virtual Boy was a flop in the mid 90’s Source: Wikicommons

The recent success of augmented reality games such as Microsoft’s Kinect camera, wowing players by how the camera detected their every move and translated it on screen proved very successful for Microsoft. With Kinect being the “fastest selling electronics computer device” according to the Guinness World Records, the time now seems to be right for the next step back into hopefully a less eye straining experience of the world of the virtual. Only a select few have experienced the initial amazement of the breakthrough innovation of Sony’s Project Morpheus and the Oculus Rift, which is still in its prototype phase with no confirmation of a release date. CEO of Facebook Mark Zuckerburg has also seen the potential of this blossoming new technology and acquired the Oculus Rift.

To provide insight into this untapped form of technology were the panel at the latest Games Question time event at Bafta who know first-hand what VR is like.

From what was gathered at the event, the experience of VR is presented as a theme park where you can experience genuine thrills. Physical reactions of peoples awe and wonder have been recorded at tech demos to present the emotional response of this unique kind of technology.

Patrick O’Luanaigh CEO for ndreams, a games developer specializing in VR technologies, described the psychological aspect, with visuals within the game stimulating real life reactions. For example leaping from one platform to another would heighten the tension because the risks will be all the more apparent when wearing the goggles. O’Luanaigh said, “The Brain believes if there is a drop in front of it and that’s great, it’s very powerful”.

Obstacles are however present in creating this new form of entertainment. Keza McDonald, a games journalist for the website Kotaku believes that already existing games being converted to the Virtual Reality format would not work as well. She says, “A mistake people make is that I’ll be able to play the same games now only in VR and that is only a mistake of the potential. It actually seems more passive experiences will be better, things where stuff basically happens to you and you react to it ”.

The more passive experience that Keza talked about was showcased at the talk. This involved watching a video of the Studio Director for Sony London’s Dave Raynard’s mother being underwater in a shark cage. She was shocked to say the least.

A more serious concern is the moral panic that has been taken into consideration even in the early stage in development. Dave Raynard, Studio Director at Sony London said, “I think it’s fair enough as long as the age rating is fair”. It was also suggested that because of the intensity and realism horror games designed for VR have, the ESRB age rating will be higher than horror games not designed for the hardware, due to the added realism of the violent content. Foreseeing the Moral panic journalist, Keza McDonald also specified, “I do think there is a level of responsibility to think about what is acceptable in VR…it’s a concern I share and the potential for outrage is quite high”. It would seem a moral panic would is imminent upon the release of Project Morpheus and Oculus Rift.

Despite the disturbing potential the violent games will bring to VR, the technology can also provide a uniquely relaxing experience taking you out of the mundane and into exotic environments and maybe even the erotic, in providing our sexual kicks, with McDonald jokingly stating “Porn will be a huge deal for VR”.

Regarding education, O’Luanaigh believes VR has the potential for more of a serious usage. He suggests, “You’ll see Project Morpheus grow and expand for education. Imagine being in a school and learning about the trenches in World War One by actually being in them and seeing in them”. It may also help with learner drivers and the military in providing a convincing method of training within a safe context away from the dangers.

The possibilities in what VR can do are almost limitless, but what are you thoughts on VR?