To those new to gaming, virtual reality may seem like an exciting new concept, but in reality it's been around in one version of another for over two decades. And to be honest, the technology is oddly similar to what it was many years ago, while the games that accompany it have grown in leaps and bounds. As companies struggle to find new ones to keep gamers interested and engaged, many are looking toward virtual reality as the new logical step forward in the gaming arms race, but is that the correct place to be focused?
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Practical application of VR
When you think about adding virtual reality to a majority of gaming households, you have to think about what's involved. Home consoles grew massively in popularity when broadband Internet became widely available and allowed gamers to get online to play with friends. Outside of the connectivity, the hardware has been the same, just a physical console box and a controller.
VR will shake up this 20+ year standard by adding a new piece of mandatory hardware to the setup, a headset. The earliest headsets were gigantic and uncomfortable and were more novelty items than serious gaming peripherals. Now, companies like Oculus Rift have come up with wearable technology that is both comfortable and easy to maintain, but it still requires the user to have it on their head.
Say the average player's typical gaming session is a few hours. Can they realistically be expected to wear the headset for that entire length of time if playing a virtual reality-supported game? What if we find that the typical player only wants to keep the headset on for 30min at a time before suffering fatigue? 30min is a very short gaming session, and even one hour would be below the standard average playing time. So just based on the physical limitations, it would be far-fetched that the current iteration of virtual reality headsets could be the future of the gaming industry.
For virtual reality to really corner a significant portion of the gaming market, changes and improvements need to be made. The technology needs to be continually worked on until the headsets weigh as much as good quality stereo headsets (something gamers are currently familiar with wearing for hours on ends) while still providing a unique visual experience. But reducing the fatigue only solves the physical issues with virtual reality in its current form.
Beyond that, VR companies needs to up the ante and expand upon true virtual reality. Currently, virtual reality is limited to what players can see but it doesn't particularly enhance your game time by tapping into the other senses. For gamers to truly embrace virtual reality, they need to feel transported into the gaming world, where sights, sounds, smells and even touch come together to provide a one-of-a-kind experience that immerses the player in the game.
Similar conversations have been had in the gambling realm. Imagine how much more immersive your poker experience would be with a VR headset that makes it looks like you’re sitting in your favorite live casino rather than staring at a computer monitor filled with avatars? The experts at 888 Poker have begun to ponder the concept of virtual poker, which some believe could further put a dent in the player base of the brick and mortar casinos, because why leave the house when you can get the authentic atmosphere from the comfort of your own home?
On its current path, virtual reality hardly seems to be the answer the gaming community has been looking for. But the technology, though established, is still years away from being perfected. Only time will tell if this medium can truly be the future we are all waiting for.