Checkpoint: Virtual reality, real opportunities

In this June 11, 2015 file photo, Oculus founder Palmer Luckey holds up the new Oculus Rift virtual reality headset for photographers following a news conference, in San Francisco. (Eric Risberg/AP)

Ever since “The Matrix,” people have dreamed of creating a virtual world. Unsurprisingly, it’s the video game industry that has finally achieved this technological marvel, with the Oculus Rift. 

Though it currently costs around $2,000, including the obscene amount of hardware needed for it to run smoothly, the Oculus Rift is just the tip of the iceberg. That raises the question of how this technology will come into the gaming world, and what genres will be best be able to take advantage of this opportunity.  

First, we should establish what virtual reality is not going to do for the video game industry. Microsoft’s presentation at E3 this year showed a video of what it would be like to use the Oculus Rift. The video they showed, a person putting on the Oculus Rift and watching mountains rendered in the style of “Minecraft” rise out of their living room table. Integrating the real world and virtual world is a little outside the scope of what the Oculus Rift is going for. 

Moreover, I can say with something close to certainty that the Oculus Rift is not going to become the dominant gaming system. It’s a new product, and one that has yet to work out the kinks, such as causing a disproportionate amount of motion sickness. As mentioned earlier, it also costs nearly $2,000, and I’m skeptical as to whether that price point can compete with consoles or computers, given that two grand is enough to build a very powerful machine. 

Nonetheless, the Oculus Rift is still an impressive technological advance, and I do think that future iterations of the device will revolutionize the gaming industry. A couple of videos showing off the Oculus Rift and some reaction videos were all it took to get me thinking, what genres would work best with this format?

The first that came to mind is a genre that, when played with an Oculus Rift, might be most entertaining for those watching the player, and that genre is horror. Immersion is already an important part of horror games, but imagine the level of terror just from feeling like you’re actually in the setting of a horror movie. Many people are still freaked out by the dark or strange noises, so a horror game for the Oculus Rift could be a whole new kind of terror.

Action games are another well of potential for virtual reality. Immersion in shooters could be vastly improved with the Oculus Rift. Creatively stagnant franchises could be revitalized by almost physically placing the player in the boots of a character.

The benefits aren’t limited to consumers, either. Studies have shown that veterans with PTSD who play shooters show improvement in their condition through re-living their trauma. The difference in immersion between a traditional controller and the Oculus Rift could make a huge difference in the lives of veterans suffering with PTSD.

There are even applications for virtual reality in genres and games that do not use a first-person perspective. Sports games, including Madden, FIFA and other franchises, could incorporate a player’s perspective. Rather than hovering over the entire New England Patriots, the Oculus Rift could bring players inside the helmets of quarterbacks, running backs and other players. Being on the field, rather than around 15 feet above the line of scrimmage, could create a whole new appreciation for players and enhance the experience for players. 

These are just a few examples of the ways that virtual reality can be used to improve the gaming industry. Although the Oculus Rift may not change the gaming industry forever, it is an undeniable step forward, a sign of improving technology and the massive potential that lies in the future of gaming.


Edward Pankowski is the life editor for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at edward.pankowski@uconn.edu.