Rants & Essays

Why I’m Not Sold on VR… Yet

Why I'm Not Sold on VR | Gamerwife.com

Why I'm Not Sold on VR | Gamerwife.com It’s no surprise to anyone that’s been paying attention to this space for the last couple of years, but VR was once again a big focus of this year’s E3. For those of you who don’t know what E3 is, it’s basically a giant trade show where everyone in the video game industry gets together to show off their new wares for the year. New games and hardware are announced, anticipate projects are revealed and basically the video game hype machine goes into overdrive.

And this year, a lot of that hype was about virtual reality.

Ubisoft had the Star Trek bridge experience. Sony had a gigantic whack of stuff, including Batman, Star Wars and Resident Evil VII. And Microsoft announced that their next console will be 4K and VR ready out of the box.

This echoes a trend that was seen at GDC as well. Valve’s HTC Vive was released in March and has been selling like gang busters, despite meager game offerings. The Occulus Rift also launched their commercial version around the same time, shocking some with it’s $600 price tag and intense minimum system requirements, but they still managed to sell out in less than 15 minutes. Sony won’t be releasing their VR package until October, just in time for the holidays, so their E3 presentation was all about making sure consumer knew they would have games to play at launch.

And yet, despite all this hype I remain unconvinced about VR as a legitimate consumer trend in video games. Sure, everyone and their monkey is excited to get to try out virtually reality in their own homes, but I just don’t see this as the next big technological leap that is really going to move video games forward. Certainly not yet.

Here are a few reasons I think this way:

Experiences need to be short

VR isn’t great for your brain. It confuses your senses and disorients you in pretty serious ways. For that reason most VR experiences currently available are relatively short. That’s a big part of why studios are hesitant to call these things games, using the much more ambiguous “experience.” “Experience” sets you up for a shorter, less active form of entertainment than “game,” and the studios know this. “Experience” also emphasizes the aspect of novelty that is still central to the appeal of VR right now. It’s a neat thing to show your friends when they come over. But not much more for the moment.

The barrier to entry is too high

While I wasn’t surprised about the $600 Oculus price tag, I think it does reinforce the fact that we are still in very early days with integrating this technology into the consumer market. The early adopted phase, if you will. However, considering most of what you can get game wise for VR is mostly passive “experiences” or casual puzzle type things, we’re going to be in this phase for a while. With the cost of the basic hardware the same as a new console, it’s going to take a generation or two (technology wise) to lower the price and build the user base that will convince studios to pour hundreds of people and millions of dollars into developing a AAA VR game. If the technology sticks around in games for that to happen.

Two words: motion sickness

While I’ve only tried the Oculus Rift and the Sony VR, my experience so far with virtual reality is one that inevitably ends in pukey feels. I will say that the Sony VR was a much more pleasant experience, the headset is better weighted and they cheat the 3D a bit to make it easier on the brain. The Oculus on the other hand, has been such a consistently stomach churning experience that it’ll take a lot of convincing and a promise of the latest specs for me to even consider trying it again. But, it turns out that could just be because I’m a lady.

All those things said, I do think that there is enormous potential for VR in spaces outside of video games. The applications in medicine, science, education and rehabilitation are incredible and totally make sense to me. Training surgeons complicated procedures in VR or putting students smack dab into historical settings are things that are already happening and will provided tremendous long term benefits to lots of people, not just those interested in video games. This is probably where the long term growth of this technology will be and the money being poured into these ventures will undoubtedly yield tangible, positive results.

Virtual reality in video games is, however, too much of a gimmick at the moment for me to really get excited about. Maybe I’ll be proven wrong in the future, but for right now the implications of augmented reality seem much more applicable to video games, to me, at the moment. Likewise the recent emergence of VR arcades. Virtual reality experiences need space and specialized equipment that most people just don’t have at home. An arcade full of a variety of VR experiences would likely be much more enticing to the average consumer than a $400 – $600 add on that you might not even be able to run at home.

While I definitely squeed a bit watching Levar Burton giving commands in Star Trek Bridge Crew, I do think it’s important to temper the hype around VR, especially where video games are concerned. The possibilities for storytelling in VR are really, really exciting. I’m just not sure we’re gonna see a lot of that in video games.

At least not for a while yet.

What do you think? Are you a VR convert?

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16 Comments

  • Reply
    Desiree
    June 20, 2016 at 9:08 am

    These are all valid points and ones I had been thinking of too. While the thought of playing Resident Evil 7 in VR has me a bit excited, I’ll admit I don’t think I could do a whole game like this. Price is also a big factor for me. I’m not quite ready to shell out $400+ just yet for a few moments of VR. I’ll be waiting for that to drop before I consider purchasing it. I know that it’s the new “thing” but like you I feel like it’s still not not at a point where it’s really worth it. I can’t wait to see where this all goes, if anywhere.

    • Reply
      Mariko
      June 21, 2016 at 2:56 pm

      I’m absolutely dying to see where this all leads, but it’s going to be a while before I’m convinced that it’s going to be a real force in shaping video games.

  • Reply
    kaycreate
    June 20, 2016 at 1:19 pm

    I completely agreed with this line of thinking. Given how new the tech is, and the hefty price tag, it definitely won’t be something in my near future. However, part of me does get giddy when I think about just how terrifying a game like Resident Evil could be with VR. But that’s just the horror fan in me. For now, I’ll be sticking with regular consoles. 🙂

    • Reply
      Mariko
      June 21, 2016 at 2:58 pm

      I really do think that there is a future for VR as a specialized, arcade based experience, but it’ll be quite a while before you can convince me that I need it in my house.

  • Reply
    Kendall Ashley
    June 20, 2016 at 6:59 pm

    Totally agree. They’ve had some VR booths at cons I’ve been at, and they all had giant “MOTION SICKNESS” warning signs. I just…I’m not about playing a game that’s gonna make me sick. I’m even less about paying just shy of a grand for it. BUT I think it could be amazing once they work out the kinks. But for now, I’m gonna wait for the tech to develop before I jump in.

    • Reply
      Mariko
      June 21, 2016 at 3:18 pm

      The thing is I just don’t see VR ever being appropriate for long experiences like games, but I’ll be happy to be proven wrong in the future.

  • Reply
    thecatyouandus
    June 22, 2016 at 6:48 am

    I also agree with your points! Definitely Dani has been following the E3 with excitement and showed me the most exciting VR hits but I’m still not in the wagon for using it with video games. I tried the Sony VR during a Mobile World Congress, and although it has improved heaps I still feel the motion sickness and the lack of reality, I’m not sure if that is maybe due to my sight but I’m unable to see properly 3d images, always there is this transparent thingy on the objects, not sure how to describe it (so well, that’s maybe only my problem but still! ) Like you I see more the potential in other areas like training in lots of areas or the possibility to have some experiences like for instance diving or visiting any place in the world. Let’s see what it brings though and how it evolves, never say never! 🙂

    • Reply
      Mariko
      June 22, 2016 at 3:28 pm

      That’s so strange about the vision stuff. Rick has an astigmatism and it means that 3D doesn’t work for him at all, so we always have to wait for films to play in non-3D before we can see them. Do you think it might be something similar?

      • Reply
        thecatyouandus
        June 22, 2016 at 3:33 pm

        It may be so! I have some astigmatism in one eye, so maybe that’s making the effect. I decided that 3d wasn’t for me when during Life of Pi I became totally sick 🙁

        • Reply
          Mariko
          June 22, 2016 at 4:30 pm

          Ah, that makes sense. I once watch a 3D movie with my sunglasses on and wondered why it wasn’t working. lol

  • Reply
    Fiona
    June 23, 2016 at 4:32 am

    Oh man, I’d be scared to even try because I get bad cases of motion sickness! I think all your points are super valid, maybe in the future they’ll find a way to make it less gimmicky or incorporate it with tried and tested long term game playing 🙂

    • Reply
      Mariko
      June 23, 2016 at 1:49 pm

      Yeah, I guess we’ll see. I’m curious to see the technology develop, but it’s gonna take a really killer app before I’m convinced it’s the next wave in video games.

  • Reply
    Nicole
    June 27, 2016 at 1:14 pm

    As far as barrier to entry goes, what about Google Cardboard? It’s $15, so it seems like a decent fit for puzzle type games. Granted I haven’t looked much into VR, I’m headache prone so it seems like a bad idea, so maybe I’m just missing something.

    • Reply
      Mariko
      June 29, 2016 at 9:46 am

      I have a Google Cardboard headset at home but I’ll confess I’ve never used it. Yes, the barrier to entry is much lower, but the experience is far from comparable and still pretty limited.

  • Reply
    Dina Farmer
    June 29, 2016 at 1:31 pm

    No, I don’t think I’m going to jump on the VR train. I get motion sick watching my husband play the Division! You the Star Wars Ride or Soaring California at Disney? Both of those rides make me really sick. The movement plus the screen does not make me a happy camper. I would just rather play on my TV please and thank you.

    • Reply
      Mariko
      June 30, 2016 at 2:46 pm

      I’ve never really had trouble with motion rides (Star Tours is probably one of my all time Disney faves), I think part of the trouble with VR for me comes from the disconnect of the image moving and me staying put. Not to mention trying to keep my head up with a bulky headset strapped to it. Oog.

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