The gaming industry is growing at an extraordinary, exponential rate. From just shy of $140bn in 2018, should the trend line continue to grow at the same rate, the industry should be worth over $180bn by 2021. It is not just titles that are helping this sector advance so rapidly. A game alone does not carry such significance.
However, when the player experience is changing, be it with a new style of console or additional accessories enhancing the gameplay, that is where the interest is sparked. So, that’s where virtual reality (VR) comes into it. Many remain sceptical about VR for society as a whole, but in the gaming industry it seems to be on the verge of becoming very popular. But what exactly is VR within the context of the industry, and will it prove to be the future of gaming?
What is virtual reality?
The appeal of a lot of VR games is that it puts you in a new world or a unique scenario that you typically wouldn’t be able to experience in reality. What VR does is take that new world, be it a poker room in Macau 2050 or a Montercarlo yacht, a field of battle amidst an intergalactic war or simply in a shop inside a busy city mall, and enhance the feel to make it seem as if experiencing reality. However, as it’s still only a game players aren’t restricted to as many rules and have more freedom.
The first inception of the concept as we know it today came in 1994, however different ideas resembling an alternate reality have been around far longer. In 1957, inventor Morton Heilig developed his own virtual reality concept. It was called the Sensorama (later patented in 1962) and gave people an opportunity to experience an illusion of reality. It played a 3D motion picture while aiming to stimulate a person’s senses through vibrations in the chair, wind in the hair and also exuding certain smells.
More recently, virtual reality has been used to simulate situations in a learning capacity. Flying schools, driving lessons and even military exercises have all used VR. Sega, in 1994, released the Sega VR-1 which was the first device that resembled what is thought of as VR today in the gaming world, with head movements being detected and affecting the gameplay on screen.
March 2016 saw the first release of the Oculus Rift, a headset that completely encompasses a wearer’s view. This is what most people nowadays associate with virtual reality.
Where can virtual reality go next?
So it is clear to see that virtual reality, or what people perceive as virtual reality, has advanced greatly over the last 60 or so years. But with technology progressing quickly in all walks of life, it is unlikely that VR will remain stagnant. Where does that leave VR in terms of progression?
It is difficult to predict the future with these sorts of things because much of the technology that might be prominent for VR in the future is likely to not even exist yet. We can try to predict that VR in the future will be more realistic than ever. It will probably look to enhance the experience by effecting all different senses, similarly to what the Sensorama tried to do, but just in a far more impactful and efficient manner.
How it is going to do that though is difficult to pinpoint. But that in itself is the appeal of virtual reality and technology as a whole. Who knows where it will take us or how successful it will be? What is certain is that as we advance as a society, VR, being a technological device, will feel the benefits of whatever technological discoveries we unearth next.
Is virtual reality the future of gaming?
Simple answer: no. It is not the future in gaming. It is far too much of a niche, at least at the point where it is at today, to break into the mainstream and be common enough to take over the gaming world.
Gamers are always going to look for that simplicity where they can just load up a game and get their enjoyment from its gameplay. VR enhances the gaming experience, but the actual enjoyment comes from the novelty aspect to it as opposed to the gameplay or storyline itself being very strong.
However, VR will be a future for gaming, in the sense that it certainly will make up one genre of the industry. One thing about technology is that the products are not evergreen. Due to the industry’s rapid expansion, the latest gadgets or consoles become dated very quickly.
So although a VR headset may be expensive now, as newer versions of devices such as the Oculus Rift are released, the older versions become less desirable and therefore more affordable. If they’re more affordable, they become accessible to a greater number of people and consequently have the opportunity to blow up as popularity increases – eventually becoming an integral part of players’ gaming experiences.
In the next few years, maybe even decades, VR may certainly be its own genre of gaming, where players look to immerse themselves in cool, alternate realities that emulate real life.
Although not a VR specifically, the Nintendo Wii has the same desired effect of enhancing a playing experience. This was largely successful, but where additional accessories such as a gun controller for shooting games could similarly have been seen as the future of gaming at the time, they have failed to take hold and fully become a part of the industry.
This is perhaps because the enhancement of the gameplay is simply not needed, so it’s worth noting that just because VR may enhance a gaming experience, that alone is not enough to make it successful. If properly implemented to the right game though, VR truly could be a real game-changer for the industry.
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