There has been a certain level of hype surrounding virtual reality, particularly with regards to the Oculus Rift, widely credited for making virtual reality sound even remotely marketable. I remember the days when virtual reality sounded like such a far-fetched and uncool that barely anyone wanted to talk about. In the world of gaming, virtual reality wasn’t something that a lot of people weren’t very keen about, and Nintendo’s ill-fated Virtual Boy didn’t help the cause. Now, less than twenty years after Nintendo’s Virtual Boy infamously flopped, the Oculus Rift is being touted by some as “the future of gaming”. I’m here to discuss why that’s total nonsense.
While it may be true that the Oculus Rift is pretty much the future of virtual reality gaming, that’s pretty much it. Keep in mind that the focus of virtual reality is total immersion, which it probably accomplishes with the headset. Virtual reality has not evolved to the point that it can immerse you into a story like the ones that can be found on console games.
Speaking of that, why do we even need virtual reality? Don’t we enjoy console games? There have been numerous games on traditional gaming consoles (Nintendo, Sony, etc.) that have had the power to immerse the player into a different world without virtual reality. By proclaiming the Oculus Rift, and therefore virtual reality, as “the future of gaming”, we’re ignoring the immersive capabilities of some of the greatest console games that we supposedly love.
I should also point out another problem. At the moment, video game addiction, though proven to be a real thing, is not as big a problem as the tabloids would like you to believe. However, in the future, virtual reality headsets like the Oculus Rift could grant such an immersive experience that your perception of fantasy and reality could be dangerously blurred. Because of the nature of this immersion, virtual reality gaming could prove to be more addictive than real console gaming, and that sounds exactly like the kind of story the tabloids would want to sell you, further attracting unnecessary attention from so-called “moral guardians”.
For virtual reality gaming to be “the future”, it needs to be able to show just as much artistic potential as a console game can. There are numerous console games both past and present that, in my opinion, can be called art, mainly because those games had an engaging storyline and characters, and/or enchanting visuals that communicated a unique style (for example, Final Fantasy VI, Dragon’s Crown, and Rayman Origins). Meanwhile, virtual reality hasn’t produced anything that can be called art. Perhaps that’s because virtual reality gaming as a concept is still in its infancy, but what if it suddenly becomes mainstream? I highly doubt that a lot of developers will use it to make real artistic games, and so what you’ll get is living proof that the video games industry is wholly uninterested in making art.
I also have a distinct feeling that virtual reality in gaming might be little more than a fad. Does anyone remember when the Nintendo 3DS came out? Back then, 3D was already a big thing in the world of cinema, and Nintendo made the 3DS to try and capitalize on it. However, it wasn’t long before we all realized that 3D was just a fad. I think the same might happen with virtual reality, because technological fads come and go, and eventually, we’ll all lose interest in virtual reality gaming. Meanwhile, console gaming has been around for nearly 40 years, and has seen every gaming fad come and go.
Finally, I think I should elaborate on why I referred to virtual reality as a “Pied Piper” in the title. I called it that because the promise of virtual reality sounds so alluring and irresistible to many, but few people really know what their getting into. Virtual reality might have numerous applications, and virtual reality gaming sounds like an attractive idea, but right now, the hype around it is just hype, and in my opinion, it’s about as appealing as empty words.