If you hadn’t heard about VR before 2020, you definitely have by now. Chances are you have even tried it out, and you may even be the almost 20% of individuals who have a headset of your own.
There are plenty of reasons why we’re all so excited about VR, and plenty more tangible reasons why VR has exploded the way it has over the last couple of years.
But with its rapid rise in popularity, we start to ask; in the future, will everything move over to VR? And, more importantly for gamers, will every game end up being in VR?
While it’s hard to give a concrete answer to either of these, there are plenty of key considerations to take into account when speculating.
Spoiler alert: no, we don’t think we’re going to end up in the Matrix… At least not yet.
There is no doubt about it, the thrills of VR gaming can cause many of the most impressive flat-screen gaming experiences to pale in comparison.
The added immersion through head and hand tracking go far beyond any VR virgin could ever imagine.
These thrills see anyone exposed to true VR become a convert right away, and no we’re not talking about those poorly rendered rollercoaster rides your uncle showed you on Google Cardboard.
Leading to the mass adoption we have seen of late.
Alongside those first thrills, our minds quickly race, having us envisage a world where everything from gaming to social interaction could take place in virtual reality—to use the buzzword, in a metaverse.
But while these thoughts are compelling, there are a few reasons why we think flatscreen gaming will remain strong living in harmony with virtual reality.
Despite being available at lower and lower price points, shifting the demographic away from tech-enthusiasts to general consumers, VR is still riddled with a variety of accessibility concerns.
Not only is VR yet to receive many of the assistive features computers have to aid in those with sight or hearing impediments, but those with limited mobility or motor function are also left behind.
Without the ability to make head and body movements, or use controllers and hand tracking, VR can be difficult.
While physical accessibility is clear, psychological accessibility is also a huge topic when it comes to VR.
With conditions from epilepsy and autism to anxiety creating near impenetrable barriers for many users.
This psychological barrier also extends to many average users, whose first ten hours in VR can be incredibly existentially disorienting.
Ultimately, VR is yet to be widely accessible. And with the gaming industry only recently placing a spotlight on accessibility, it may take a while for VR to catch up.
When asking infrequent VR users to try a new VR experience, they can often be a little tentative.
There are often two key reasons for this, both relating to the intensity of VR experiences.
Firstly, a reason often sited by my brother, is that the experience is too intense.
Most often surfacing during evening play sessions, this perceived (and real) intensity of VR experiences may be one of the greatest hurdles the form must overcome to truly be the primary mode of gaming.
As when it involves strapping a bright screen to your face, standing up and waving your arms about, many players looking for a calming 20 minutes may never find a moment to jump into VR.
Secondly, VR causes motion sickness. This very real issue is likely to have been felt by most users at some point and, damn, it’s not pretty.
At its worst, motion sickness can spell an individual’s final foray into VR. And at its best, it can simply mark the end of a play session.
But it’s no secret that VR’s motion sickness problem keeps many players preferring old school gaming.
You Can’t Play Everything in VR
Beyond these very real issues with players’ experience in VR, the ultimate reason that VR isn’t going to grab the gaming industry in a stranglehold is that some games simply won’t be the same in VR.
Platformers, mobile puzzlers, MMORPGS, cinematic narratives and plenty of other gaming forms can work in VR, but often work far better in their flatscreen versions.
For example, while we can all imagine controlling a bubbly, 3D Mario in VR translating the good-old 2D-style Super Mario Bros. games into VR meets a dead-end.
The same could be said for WoW, MOBAs, team sport sims and plenty more.
Of course, we’re not saying these genres could never work in VR, simply that their formula may need to be changed so much that they would become a new beast entirely.
Leaving a gap for lovers of the old formula to stay out of the virtual world.
Ultimately, it’s no doubt that VR gaming is going to continue to explode. With more people than ever owning headsets, which is a given.
However, in our minds, that doesn’t put traditional gaming in a mid-life crisis.
We’re solid believers that flatscreen gaming and VR will have a shared future, giving gamers a broader array of experiences and methods of play, without leaving anyone behind.
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