Technology is an ever-changing commodity, and the video game industry always proves to be at the forefront of this change. Over thirty years ago, gaming consisted of countable bits on a screen and a little entertainment. Now, we play AAA titles that reach past our hand-eye coordination and touch our minds and soul. I’m a strong believer in the influential power of strong storytelling, but we cannot discount the hardware and gaming mechanics that go into a gameplay experience. And with the recent innovations into virtual reality headsets and gaming, an observer of trends in gaming has to wonder just where all this is going. Are we on the cusp of a gaming revolution shown in older ’90s movies such as The Lawnmower Man and Hackers?
Let’s start with what we already know. For the most part, first-person titles such as Call of Duty and Left for Dead are more interactive than third-person games. It’s that point of view that allows the player to see the world as they would see it. Of course, this is not to say that third-person games are not interactive as well. Look at The Last of Us, nominated by so many magazines and companies as Game of the Year. These kinds of games are just as good. However, gamers seem to enjoy the FP games because of the connection they can make with their character. Not seeing who you’re playing as for most of the game can help immerse you in the environment around you, at least in my experience. Even if the playable character has a face and form, the psychology of the situation shows that the player sees their own self in that character. Think of it like a long episode of Quantum Leap, if you’re old enough to know what that show is. If you’re not, feel free to stop reading and do a little research. I won’t mind.
The game doesn’t even have to be a shooter to be completely immersive, though that sometimes seems to be the go-to game for people looking for a good time in gaming. My example for this would be Outlast, truly one of the scariest games I have ever played. In case you’re unfamiliar
with it, Outlast is a horror FP title in which you’re a journalist investigating a shady mental asylum, armed with nothing but your video Something very creepy tocamera and a decent amount of cardio fitness. Couple this incredibly frightening run from the evil guys action with a gaming headset to put the disturbing sounds right in your ear, and you’ve got yourself a hell that you’re trying to complete just to escape from. No amount of pre-gaming conversation could prepare me for what I experienced in that game, and I loved every minute of it. I think Outlast is a testament to just how far the gaming interactivity has come for us.
Now, let’s look at the immediate future: VR gaming headsets. One of the big wave-makers in the industry is the Oculus Rift. According to their website, the Rift is allowing for a full 3D headset experience, completely removing the TV from the equation. Though the Rift is not on the market yet, the promise of future games using this is a little
exciting, if you can get past the initial awkwardness of wearing a giant box on your head.
Of course, the Rift is not the only headset being promised on the market. Being a huge Sony fan, I was interested in hearing about their line of VR headset, dubbed Project Morpheus. Playstation’s blog speaks on this headset, boasting a 90 degree field of view at any given time along with1080p resolution and stereoscopic sound. Now, don’t get too excited. You can’t walk around your living room with the headset and expect to save the world. You’ll still need a controller and a Playstation Camera to interact with this world. But, the implications are pretty promising, not to mention the future happiness of FPS competitive gamers who struggle sometimes to find the right TV to aid in their killing conquests.
Now, one has to consider some of the consequences to this. First of all, what is the cost? Will these headsets be affordable toys for the masses or luxuries for those with plenty of time and money on their hands? I’m inclined to believe that they’ll start off somewhat pricey and come down as time and technology grow. That’s usually the trend with these things. Another implication is eyesight degradation. Mom and Dad always say don’t sit too close to the TV. Will headsets have the same effect on the eyes? You can go either way on this one. You are experiencing a first person view of things just like you do every single day. However, you’re experiencing it through a synthetic screen, which is not natural for people to look through. So, a bit of caution may be in order for this new wave of gaming.
Finally, let’s think outside the gaming box. These headsets are great, but if you’re imaginative, you can find more uses for this tech. Astronauts and the military already using virtual simulators for combat and flight practice, that’s already known. What other ways can this be used? Maybe nursing schools and hospitals can train students to administer aid while removing some of the fear of mistakes. Computer techs can play with the insides of their devices before working on them for real. What if real estate agents and homebuyers could coordinate to create a dream home that a person can “walk” through before actually buying or building the place? This may sound a bit extreme, but VR can definitely be useful in the real world. Think about that in a few years when you see how things turn out.
If you’re trying to stay up to date with gaming news and devices, then obviously you’ll want to invest in a VR headset. These things can definitely open up a new world of interactive possibilities. It’s really going to be a matter of choice as to which device to pick, just like in picking a console. Personally, I’m not really in a hurry to pick a headset up. I’d like to let the market mature a bit before choosing to do that. I am optimistic though. The world is an evolving place, and the VR business is looking up. Or down. Or all around.