Abyssal Pixels: Will VR Change Our Immersion?
Well, of course it would. What can be more immersive than being inside of your game’s world? VR has been a hot topic for the past year or so because it can be seen as the next big step forward in gaming. It’s almost at the same level as the first 3D games of the old days that revolutionized our way of gaming. Will VR take this drastic step forward or will we all just end up looking like imbeciles at a headbanging convention?
I’m a huge supporter of immersion. It’s the thing I like most about gaming because of how shitty my life is. I like to escape to a fictional realm and get lost in it for hours at a time while forgetting about my life. It’s what makes gaming stand out for me. A book and a movie can captivate you. Hold your attention while it gives you an experience. A game, on the other hand, can make you feel like you’re inside of that world. Not just a spectator, but an active participant that guides the world how you please. That’s what immersion is all about and when you get addicted to it, there’s no real turning back. You just want more.
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Now, back to the topic of VR. I believe immersion takes a hit because of the whole “sitting away from a screen” thing, even if it sounds silly. The world around you is still functioning. The light is still coming into your window and you take notice of it, taking you away from this fictional world you are invested in. VR has the ability to change that by closing that gap between reality and fiction. While it’s just your eyeballs only seeing the virtual world in front of you, that can drastically change how you experience it.
I point you now to a video by Pewdiepie (don’t crucify me) where he plays a horror game with the Oculus Rift. The game itself doesn’t look that amazing, if I’m being honest. It looks mainly like a student created B-grade horror game that we have seen so many times before. But because it was played using VR, the immersion quality was hugely intensified. I know most people dismiss Pewdiepie’s reactions to scares and stuff, but this one genuinely had him shaking and crapping himself, as far as I can tell.
Now imagine playing Outlast with full VR support. I know I would be hesitant because that would just be way too much to handle. When some dude’s face is in front of you from a screen, the effect is still there, but it loses its full scare ability. With VR, the dude’s face is right in front of yours where you can almost smell his breath. That’s when the horror might get way too much and you throw your headset across the room and flip a table. The potential for high quality horror games is just amazing using VR. It will change the way we get scared by our games completely.
Then you get normal games. I’ve played Skyrim for possibly around 150 hours. Sure, about 40 of those were aimless treks across wide landscapes and spelunking in caves, but if I had VR for those 40 hours the experience would be much different. I like nature and walking through the wilderness, but not in real life. I’m fat and I hate sunlight. Now imagine I can walk through a vast forest or climb a mountain while feeling that I’m actually there. Those moments where I push the analogue stick forward to make my character walk across some boring fields would now be moments of wonder. This is immersion at its finest.
VR can potentially be the “next 3D television” where it’s just a boring gimmick that has some novelty for the first few hours, but then gives you a migraine. I hope it does not become that because the potential for more immersion that you can achieve with VR is enormous. We might be riding dragons across volcanoes and actually feel that we’re there in the comfort of our couch. But we might just accept friend invites and ignore Candy Crush requests (haha I made a Facebook Oculus joke). We can just wait and see how the industry handles this new technology. I personally hope they don’t completely fuck it up.