I have spent a lot of time in virtual reality. In 2013, when I was working at PC Gamer, the first version of the Oculus Rift, Development Kit 1, arrived at our office. Compared to today’s VR headsets, it was decidedly stone age, with blurry low-res displays and annoyingly high latency. But I didn’t mind. I was hooked. The next year I was obsessed with technology, playing every game and demo I could get my hands on, writing articles about it, and boring people like shit Roy Batty with stories of all the great things I saw. I was.
Then came the next version of the Rift, a much-improved DK2. Sharper! Smoother! Less discomfort! I was hooked again, catching up on every generation of technology from that point on, culminating in playing the sublime Half-Life: Alyx on the Vive Pro.But while Valve’s flagship VR game is incredible and rivals Half-Life 2 in many ways, the best memories I have are of shooting a Combine or beheading a headcrab zombie. It’s not about doing or doing anything. It’s just a feeling. to be There, in City 17, I look back most fondly.
In hindsight, this applies to my entire VR history. For me, the most thrilling thing about this technology is being transported to another location. Before he hit the mainstream, he had a great Oculus Rift homebrew scene. Game developers and artists have experimented with this technology, usually in the form of explorable spaces based on other media. I remember visiting the Red Room of Twin Peaks, the bridge to the Enterprise, and the towering walls of Game of Thrones more times than I’ve actually played any game.
The Oculus Rift indie landscape was the best way to discover the possibilities of hardware. Artists, coders, and game designers (including industry veterans and passionate enthusiasts) have used tools like Unity and Unreal in their spare time to create exciting, mobile virtual reality experiences. From Jerry Seinfeld’s apartment to My Neighbor Totoro’s bus stop scene, Flathe can now fully explore places he could only see passively on screen. It was VR as virtual tourism and it was incredibly exciting.
I haven’t invested in a new VR headset in a while, as the industry’s focus seems to have shifted significantly towards gaming. There are some great things out there, but I think I’m less interested in virtual reality as a way to play video games and more interested in the idea of it being a portal to other places. A subgenre of passive, atmospheric, exploratory games emerges that focuses on taking you to interesting places and enjoying being there for a while without distractions, rather than simple game mechanics. I want to see
This is what I would like film and television studios to invest in. The aforementioned VR version of The Wall from Game of Thrones was funded and co-developed by HBO, so it’s possible to have this kind of collaboration with a developer. There is precedent: As VR headsets become cheaper and lighter, and wireless technology improves, more people will want to try one. The industry can only benefit from having a rich non-gaming experience to offer to those who don’t mind shooting zombies. Or a racing car.