Will Virtual Reality Become As Mainstream As Video Games?

From Call of Duty to Candy Crush, video games are in practically every household. Will VR be the next household item?

Both video games and virtual reality have been around for quite some time. Video games, designed to be in every home or easily accessible via arcades, quickly became mainstream and has evolved a great deal since it's early days in dark arcades or the two button controllers. Virtual reality, however, has remained elusive to mainstream audiences. Investors are banking on that changing very soon. Facebook, already a household name, acquired Oculus VR for $2 billion and looks to do for VR what Facebook did for social media but can Facebook make VR a household item--a mainstream go-to for entertainment?

The very first video game was created in October 1958 by physicist William Higinbotham. It was called Tennis for Two, practically the predecessor to the popular 70s game Pong, which was created by inventor, Ralph Baer. "There were computer video games in the 1960s, but computers were so rare and so large that they were strictly for academics." With the computers becoming a household item, so too, were video games on those computers. Computers have always been the gateway to the popularity of video games due to accessibility.

As computers became smaller and more affordable, more games for those computers emerged and accessible via floppy disks. Then the advent of early gaming consoles such as Magnavox Odyssey and Atari allowed people to play video games via cartridges. But with new technological advancements came new games and greener graphic pastures. It was in the 1990s that video games truly solidified its place in mainstream society.

Source: PC World

Source: PC World

Why, then, with all of the technological advancement and very promising and exciting experience virtual reality offers, is VR not a household item yet? It's simple. Until recent months, VR headsets were too expensive and not easily accessible. VR headsets also come in two categories: tethered, meaning connected to a PC or other device or mobile. At present, the least expensive tethered VR is the Playstation VR, sitting at $400. The Google Daydream View is a mobile VR headset. Mobile, in this sense, means inserting your mobile phone into the headset and attaching it to your head, using the phone as your display. Mobile VR headsets are inexpensive, compared to the tethered VR headsets.

With VR, you can see the world without leaving your home. You can immerse yourself in exotic environments and be at the center of the action of a video game. So why is VR still not commonplace like video game consoles? Variety writer, Todd Spangler makes a very valid point in that VR just is not something that is considered a "must-have".

VR’s immersive, solitary confinement simply doesn’t square with how people consume entertainment at home. Never mind that you can’t interact in-person with another human being with a Google Daydream, Oculus VR or Vive headset strapped to your noggin...Then there’s the fact that VR requires a caffeinated level of engagement. You have no choice, locked in the cage of a VR headset, but to pay constant attention.

VR seems like something that would be fun to try, say if you go to an arcade or entertainment wonderland like Dave and Busters. But to invest in a VR headset just for an immersive gaming experience? You'd have to be pretty dedicated to solitary entertainment without human interaction.

Luckily, VR is being used for more than just entertainment. Entrepreneur discusses the many ways VR is being used outside of gaming, including. to perform experiments in controlled environments and "to help paraplegics regain body functions." There are a great many uses for virtual reality that go beyond immersive video games. 

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Virtual Reality: Blurring the Lines Between Movies and Video Games


Video games have become more and more immersive with role playing and first-person shooters. You feel as if you are there in that environment, interacting with objects, non-player characters, and, in some instances, other players. Similarly, movies have become incredibly immersive with 3D, IMAX, and 4D experiences. With the increasing technical advancement, virtual reality will break the already crumbling barrier between movies and video games.

Think about games such as Heavy Rain, an interactive video game thriller where your decisions and actions determine the outcome of the story. In Heavy Rain, the protagonists must stop the Origami Killer who drowns his victims with prolonged exposure to rainfall. The game already acts as an interactive film that you can control. Imagine playing this game and being able to feel raindrops on your head—on your arms—while playing as your character. Virtual reality makes this type of gameplay possible.

Imagine being Katniss Everdeen and exploring her world across all four of The Hunger Games films. In 2015, Samsung, Lionsgate, and Reel FX animation studio collaborated to bring fans of The Hunger Games series a 360 virtual reality experience. The 3D experience "allows viewers to explore key moments throughout Katniss’ [sic] journey, across all four films in the series."

Source: Screenshot from  The Hunger Games  virtual reality tour

Source: Screenshot from The Hunger Games virtual reality tour

Films have also created immersive environments with 3D, where the characters look as if they are coming out of the screen toward you, and 4D, where theaters add physical elements to the viewing experience such as smell. With VR, films are elevated to even greater heights, allowing you to become fully immersed in the film. VR adds an element of interactivity for film that goes beyond the trivia questions that accompany DVDs.

With VR, games and film put you in a 360 degree world where you experience the story from the point of view of a character or even an object. In some films or games, your decisions determine the outcome. In others, you, the viewer make choices, but are still left in the dark as to the ending of the game or film. For example, similar to the game play of Heavy Rain, the film Broken Night explores a woman's (Emily Mortimer) unreliable narrative of an intense trauma. Speaking to a detective, her confused memories unfold: returning home in the midst of a fight with her husband (Alessandro Nivola), they encounter an intruder. The viewer is placed in a position of choosing which memories to follow, sharing her confusion before coming to the startling truth.

Source: Tribeca Film Festival

Source: Tribeca Film Festival

As VR puts the viewer in the thick of all the action, films and video games become even more story-driven and viewer focused. The lines of game play and film are indeed blurred with the increased technological advancement of virtual reality. VR can make video game play seem as if the viewer is inside of a movie. And in that same token, films have an element of video game play, such as making choices and interacting with objects and people. With virtual reality you don't just play video games. You don't just watch films. Soon, when we hear about an interesting film or game to be released, we will say, "I can't wait to experience it."