Virtual reality is here. It made its way from sci-fi tv shows, from our childhood imaginations, and it’s sitting next to my television as I type this. Virtual reality is really, truly here.
I’ve been playing VR since the launch of the HTC Vive, but in such small doses that I felt like I hadn’t had enough experience to come to a conclusion on it. Now that I own a PlayStation VR headset and have had several more hours with the Vive, I feel a little more comfortable saying how I feel. Here we go: If you haven’t tried VR, you are missing out on the most exciting thing to happen to gaming in a long time.
I’m the first to admit that I’m a sucker for silly gaming gimmicks. I (mostly) loved the Wii, I think the Wii U is one of my favorite systems ever, and I’ll go to a Dave & Buster’s or whatever just to play in the dumb flight/shooter sims. Traditional games are still great, but I’m hard-pressed to ignore a novelty for novelty’s sake. The thing is, I think VR is enough to satisfy the easily entertained person like myself, and the staunch “hardcore” people who desperately want to sit down with a controller.
Once you slip on your headset of choice the implications of the device are immediate. One of my favorite experiences this year is watching the first moment someone tries virtual reality. The first moment they realize they can turn in any direction, walk around, and exist inside a video game. The first time they use their virtual hands to open a cabinet, and then bend down to look inside it. The inevitable first “WOW” gets me every time. Some prefer the non-interactive experience of just being in the world, others want the tactility of holding the controller in front of them and touching everything in virtual sight. Whether it’s the mere sight that impresses, the handle of a paintbrush, or the grip of a handgun, there’s always a moment that flips a switch of when you “get” virtual reality.
Mine was during the first game I played back in June. I strapped on the headset to play the first-person shooter Space Pirate Trainer. I was able to walk around the entire play area always being able to tell exactly where I was, as I dodged incoming bullets and shot down enemy ships. That moment is still the most impressed I’ve been playing a “traditional” (i.e. not Pokemon GO) video game all year.
All this rambling is to say that you should probably try this stuff as soon as possible. Find a friend who already owns one of these things, or go to a local gaming convention (Thanks OMG!con) to try one out. Every time I boot up a VR machine I feel like I might be less impressed that this technology is able to exist. So far I haven’t been. After a multi-hour long session with Space Pirate Trainer and Until Dawn: Rush of Blood just this week, I’m still as astonished with what I’m seeing as I was a few months ago. As for the future of VR? That’s up to the software developers to support it. Is this a fad that dies down before the technology hits a reasonable price point, or is this the dawn of The Next Big Thing?
Whatever happens to VR, it’ll always be one of the things that defines this year for me. Between this and Pokemon GO, 2016 has been an exciting one of evolving what video games can be. Here’s to moving forward and always finding fresh ways to make our old toys new.