The video game industry is young and growing fast. Every couple of years, it jumps forward by leaps and bounds to give us something more realistic-looking, bigger, more complex, engaging, etc. Every time a new console or accessory launches, the marketplace is sudden buzzing with talk of “the future of gaming”, with the idea that this product will become the new norm of gaming. I suspect Virtual Reality (VR) may be heading down the same path.
Remember the dawn of Microsoft’s Kinect for the Xbox 360? It was termed “Project Natal” for a ridiculously long time, as a way to tease us with the possibilities of dropping the controller and using our bodies instead. More than that, it sold us the idea that we could scan in our real-world objects to use in-game, such as a skateboard. This, of course, came riding off of the coattails of the “Nintendo Revolution”, later just known as the Wii. And Sony didn’t wait long to jump into this “Revolution,” either, with the Playstation Move. They all promised a whole new world of gaming, a new level of interactivity, and soon the market was flooded with big body movement games. And it was AWFUL.
We expected great innovation, and what we got was a bland over-saturation of poorly executed sports, mini-game packs, and dance games. The few exceptions made, such as Child of Eden, The Gunstringer, and Fable: The Journey, might be considered good motion-based games, but as bread-and-butter games, they’re garbage.
And so here we are at the crux of another gaming revolution, and it’s giving me pause. Virtual Reality is on the horizon for the general consumer, with big, bold things being promised. Again. This October, Playstation VR is rumored to be rolling out alongside an updated version of the PS4 (currently being termed the Playstation Neo), and it’s going to incorporate the long-forgotten Move controllers and Playstation Camera. Not too far behind, we’re expecting Oculus Rift and HTC/Steam’s Vive to become more common. Each insist that they’re bringing us the future, now.
Don’t get me wrong, I think these are exciting times, and unlike motion-based gaming, I do think Virtual Reality may change a few things. But it’s not going to replace anything as a new standard. For one thing, these things are ridiculously expensive. First, you have to spend at least a few hundred dollars on a console or computer to run them off of. Playstation VR will start at $399 ($499 if you need the camera and controllers), Oculus Rift is $599, and the Vive at $799.
But even if money starts growing on trees and we’re all able to get one of these things in each of our living rooms, I’m not being wowed by the range of game options here. Anything first-person will be pretty amazing, yes, especially if it’s designed around any kind of exploration and discovery (I’m especially intrigued by games like No Man’s Sky and Minecraft taking on VR).
I’m not as sure about third-person games, however. For example, I love Psychonauts, and I was glad to hear the VR experience would be a first-person as a Psychonaut slinging psychic warfare, because the idea of hovering above Raz, or any other character, as a disembodied camera just seems wrong. And maybe it’s just me, but there’s something just too charming about 2D, non-realistic, top-down type games that you just can’t put into VR. While it’s a fun exercise to try, I just can’t wrap my brain around the image of Stardew Valley in full 360ᴼ view.
Virtual Reality is in fact a future part of gaming, and it will be hitting the consumer space soon. But this latest-and-greatest trend is like a full racing rig a gear-head has set up for Forza, only a bit more versatile — fun and exciting, but limited in its applications and requiring quite a bit of effort and expense. Some people will get to enjoy it on a handful of games – but it’s probably not going to replace anything as standard.
What do you think, is VR going to change gaming as we know it, or will it’s entry into the gaming world be ultimately anti-climactic? Let us know by leaving a comment or tweeting us at @sosimplyverygud!