Virtual reality? Thanks, but no thanks.

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.

Why?

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.

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6 thoughts on “Virtual reality? Thanks, but no thanks.

  1. bhagpuss January 9, 2016 / 9:29 am

    VR as it exists at the current phase of development has absolutely no chance of mainstream acceptance. Even home 3D, which only asks that the viewer wear a pair of lightweight glasses, has had no market penetration despite the massive corporate investment and hype cycle a few years back. It’s even stalled in cinemas, with most movies continuing to be released in 2D and often preferred that way by paying audiences.

    The idea that the average adult would look forward to coming home after a hard day’s work to an evening of standing in the middle of the living room wearing a strap-on visor the size of a housebrick while waving their arms about or running in place is ludicrous. Never, ever going to happen.

    That, of course, doesn’t mean it won’t take off with a niche audience, for whom the more expensive it is and the less understood and accepted by “Joe Average”, the more attractive it will appear. Expect adoption by a self-defined elite while everyone else looks on in bemusement.

    Of course, if someone eventually comes up with a way to offer a truly immersive holodeck/danger room style experience with no helmets, hoods, gloves or trailing wires then all bets are off. That could mean the end of culture as we know it. Don’t hold your breath!

  2. Wilhelm Arcturus January 9, 2016 / 11:54 am

    Do you actually play games that support and would benefit from VR? I’m thinking that if you did, if you were heavily into something like Elite: Dangerous, you would be singing a different tune. Otherwise, this strikes me as somebody declaring that they wouldn’t buy a fancy new chainsaw when they actually never cut wood. That too would gather dust even if somebody gave it to you.

  3. Thomas Kennady January 9, 2016 / 8:51 pm

    I was set and ready to pay $350 on release day. The $600 price tag with no controllers; pffff, garbage. To hear 7000+ kickstart people got them for $275. NO. I’m not going to supplement their purchase. At least Elon Musk doesn’t disappoint us.

  4. DanVzare January 10, 2016 / 7:24 am

    I think the problem I have with VR, is how it would limit game genres.
    I mean, how on earth would you play any type of game that isn’t an FPS using VR?
    Third person games, strategy games, puzzle games, match 3 games, all gone!
    You can’t have a game like The Lemmings in VR, without the VR part becoming meaningless.

    Now on the other hand, what I WOULD like, is a monitor that actually feels like I’m looking through a window and not at a monitor. One where I can push my head to the very edge of the screen, to see something that you clearly wouldn’t be able to see if you looked directly at the monitor from the center. That’s what I want!

  5. P. Mersault January 10, 2016 / 12:19 pm

    Totally with you here, especially on the whole family part. There’s a reason why our gaming pc is still firmly planted in the living room- i can play a game without being totally isolated from my wife (i don’t play when our child is awake). I already dislike using voice chat for the same reason- because when i use it, i decide to spend time with “internet people” instead of being able to talk with my wife, despite being in the same room. VR would be even worse.

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