Remember when 3D televisions were going to revolutionize gaming? They were going to turn your plain vanilla two-dimensional having game experiences into realized worlds and be so immersive you wouldn’t know what reality was anymore! Sure, Sony had a vested interest in getting consumers to buy 3DTVs since they were making a lot of them, but so what? 3DTV was the future!
There was a problem. In order to make the game 3D, developers had to halve their games’ frames per second, meaning that a game had to run smoothly at 60 FPS in order to be halved into two 30 FPS images for each 3D output. Making a “compelling” game that ran smoothly enough to crap out a decent 3D effect proved Sisyphean, and wouldn’t you know it, 3DTVs themselves proved to be a useless fad as well.
On top of this, 3DTVs were a hassle. Do they come with the necessary 3D glasses? They didn’t come cheap, and the range of quality viewing wasn’t helpful as well. You’d have to sit facing the damned screen, so if you wanted to have a viewing party, better get comfortable cramming a lot of people on your tiny couch! That’s not even taking into effect that if you wanted a decent 3DTV, you’re going to have to plunk down some major coin.
You’ll forgive me if, unlike my colleague Derek Baroni, my anticipation for this recurrence of virtual reality devices is a bit muted.
Back In My Day
I come from an age when virtual reality was the stuff of dreams. I remember wandering around a VR kiosk at Six Flags as a youth. In between bouts of riding the Ninja all day, I would gawk at grown men and women wandering around, poorly, in a ridiculous apparatus, in a landscape devoid of most anything, stabbing at what appeared to be origami-shaped birds or pterodactyls. Being poor, I could not afford to enter this fascinating realms that was projected on tube televisions around the kiosk.
Now we have all these virtual reality devices in development, and wouldn’t you know it, there’s nothing new about what’s on offer. Total immersion? Something different? All this talk of “new,” “exciting” and “different” applications to gaming, and I have yet to see a killer app for the thing that would raise the profile of virtual reality above the niche device it’s doomed to be upon release. I don’t want to watch a virtual reality dependent documentary or nature show, I want an epic game that demands virtual reality as a primary component.
This is where we run in to the problem of the gaming press getting all in a tizzy over virtual reality, when there’s nothing there for gamers. In their cynical desire for “new” and “compelling,” you see countless members of the games press exalt the awesomeness of the potential of virtual reality, but are oddly quiet when it comes to what use they will be to video games.
Why The Sudden Push For Virtual Reality?
In the March 16, 2015 episode of the podcast DLC, Adam Sessler was extolling the greatness of virtual reality whilst heavily promoting the now defunct Roto Chair. I guess the chair would allow the user a tangle free VR experience? Regardless, Sessler’s heavy-handedness in promoting the product was more alarming to me than it’s application. It made me wonder if consumers should be a lot more skeptical of the coming virtual reality revolution at the hands of our old friends in the gaming press.
Perhaps there is a silver lining to the dark, ominous cloud I speak of, as latent misogyny seems to be the standard operating procedure of most virtual reality devices currently coming to market. This means that a fair amount of social justice-tinged games won’t be playable on these devices, since they cause women to get motion sickness and vomit. Sadly, it does mean that a fair amount of those “walking simulators” may find a new market in virtual reality devices. So prepare yourselves for Gone Home 2: I Think I Left My Emotional Pencil In Here or Vanishing of Ethan Carter: This Time You Can Check Out Our Sweet Skybox.
Gaming may be the safest place for virtual reality as nothing screams louder “this is a niche gimmick” than the gaming industry. For all the fears of erosion and setting the industry “back to the 90’s,” enough suckers will fall for all the frothy hype heaped on it by the games press hollowly searching for that next big thing. Perhaps we should all take a step back and see just how much landfill space these headsets will need to take up.