Just a quick post in response to this week’s Oculus Rift “pay us $600 to be part of the VR club” announcement. I’m… really not on board with any of this.
And it doesn’t even have to do with the price. If the company was to send me a free Rift just because I’m so internet famous, it would probably collect dust in my closet. My gut reaction to VR today is about the same as it was in the mid-90s with the Virtual Boy and those expensive arcade cabinets with the funny helmets: It’s kind of goofy, kind of unnecessary, interesting to a point, but nothing I can see myself using beyond a spin for curiosity’s sake.
Of course, I’m not what you’d call a cutting edge adapter of technology, so I might not be the best person to gauge gamer interest for such a device. But even though I love MMOs and immersion, I recoil from the thought of slapping a helmet or headset on to play one.
For one thing, I can’t see getting much more out of the experience than I already am with a traditional monitor. When I’m playing a game, I zone pretty hard into it so that I’m not seeing the room around me anyway. But I also like the option to turn my head and look at other things — for instance, my family if they’re around. I do NOT want my kids to grow up seeing their dad play games with a mask on, shutting them out. If I do play games while they’re awake, it’s nice to have them hop on my lap, take over jumping duties for my character (hop hop hop), and talk with me about the various sights we’re passing. Being able to look at each other and communicate is key to not shutting ourselves in a game. (And wearing headphones is bad enough, sometimes).
It’s also really hard to tell whether this will be the latest in a string of efforts to bring VR about but will ultimately just end up as a pricey fad that will be rejected by the mainstream. And $600 headsets do not shout to me “mainstream success,” just niche geek interest. Is the time ripe now to pull the trigger on VR or are these companies just really hoping it’ll take off somehow? And have we learned nothing from the gimmicky but ultimately unnecessary motion controls that were all the rage on consoles but were rejected for the tried-and-true controller?
Of course, like many of you I’ve been adequately warned about the dangers of VR thanks to Star Trek’s holodecks, which managed to make VR look like homework AND consistently malfunction in some deadly way. My life and time isn’t worth putting at risk of reenacting Shakespeare before Hamlet decides to stab me with the safety protocols off.
So Oculus Rift? Thanks, but no thanks. Now if MMOs could come out with accessories that shot wind and smells and mist in your face while you played, I’d be into that. A game that spits in my face would be so awesome for immersion.