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Game Theory: Is virtual reality a fad?

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Game Theory: Is virtual reality a fad?

Each week editor David Howard King (a lifelong video gamer); Frank D’Aloia, owner of Forgotten Freshness, a retro video game store based in Mechanicville; and Joseph Pirro, owner of Pastime Legends, a chain of retro game stores located in Albany, Troy, Scotia and Ventura, California discuss one topic relating to video games, the gaming industry, technology or gaming culture. If you have a topic to propose please email david@thealt.com

The Alt: What kind of impact do you think VR will have on the game market? Will it be a long-lived format or it just a fad?

Joseph Pirro:

I’ve been talking to a lot of people lately about virtual reality, and while overall the jury is still out, the future is full of possibilities. Consumer technology is finally at a point where you can purchase VR gear at a relatively inexpensive price, and the potential for VR is massive.

Developers have started producing some quality titles that are VR-dedicated, and other games can be adapted to have VR enhancements in order to allow you to be immersed deeper into the experience.

With VR you can put yourself into a game, bringing new perspectives and new experiences. While I’ve experienced a lot of positive reactions from people excited for the technology to develop further, I’ve also seen the opposite reaction, where people have said that they are tired of gimmicks at this point.

During the Nintendo Switch broadcast, I was at a viewing party and the room groaned with disapproval as the motion controls were revealed. The majority of console gamers I’ve talked to recently just want a headache-free system that can run smoothly, a controller that is intuitive and good games.

Maybe that connection between motion controls and VR has people cautiously skeptical, as many spent a pretty penny on peripherals that are no longer regularly supported. Personally, I feel the Playstation VR is pretty great and a lot of fun, but it’s more of a gaming luxury than a necessity. Hopefully, we see developers continue to release deeper and deeper content and grow the VR branch of gaming.

Frank D’Aloia:

I feel like it’s too early to tell for sure, but being waist-deep in the video game economy and seeing various markets come and go (motion controls, the wallet-burning secondary-market-proof Guitar Hero craze), I think VR will have a future.

The Wii had its “waggle stick” motion controls, which worked well for some things but for the most part steered hardcore gamers away from the console entirely. Guitar Hero and Rock Band are nice novelty ideas, but as the re-release of both franchises proved, were no more than that.

Virtual Reality, however . . . It’s what we’ve always expected gaming to come to. It’s not a new gaming idea that we didn’t realize we wanted so we could use our Nintendo to bowl with grandma. This is a true and expected evolution of gaming. Something movies joked about and prophesied for decades is slowly becoming a reality. Unlike other motion controls and wacky peripherals before it, it’ll only improve and get better.

Don’t get me wrong. While I think it HAS a future in gaming, I don’t think it IS the immediate future of gaming. There will be improvements over time, with every new developer that gets on board, with every update to the hardware. It’ll only be a matter of time before we have our own motion-capture suits to help complete the VR experience, and while we’ve been saying things like that for years, it’s finally happening. As far as, say, the Playstation VR goes, it’s surprisingly responsive (and surprisingly well received). It works as intended for the most part, which is something I did not expect.

I assumed things like the PSVR and the HTC Vive would go the way of the Time Crisis 4 Guncon or the Nintendo U-Force: A neat idea that is frustratingly difficult to get working properly. But with proper room for the experience and a small learning curve with a new kind of control/viewing scheme you will find yourself saying, “Wow, I hope they make a (insert game you like here) for this!”.

It’s certainly not a fad. You aren’t going to find VR sets in the clearance bins anytime soon. I do believe, however, that it will remain a respectable niche market for the next half a decade or so. After that, I’d say it’s safe to expect virtual reality to be a staple of the upcoming 9th console generation.

David Howard King:

I’ve been waiting for a while for something to dissuade me from continuing my gaming habit. There have been a few times when I gave up gaming, only to return again, lured by some exciting advancement or must-play game.

It’s served as my nightly cool-down session–not quite Frank Underwood’s Call of Duty addiction in House of Cards, but something like that. I grew up in the 8- and 16-bit eras and then gave up gaming when the load times on the first Playstation drove me nuts. I returned for the PS2 and have stuck around since. Virtual reality looks like it may be my next jumping-off point.

Why? A convergence of a number of factors. I wear glasses, and so far I haven’t found a virtual-reality set that properly accounts for that. My head is absurdly big, and while most helmets do accommodate that it still isn’t a comfortable experience. But finally and perhaps most importantly, I’m a father of a toddler. My time is already limited and I’m constantly on the ready to do dad things, even at night. I don’t see myself being able to disappear into a headset for any period of time. Virtual reality doesn’t work well without some space; my house is currently packed with toddler things. VR equipment is also fairly expensive and relatively fragile when compared to the might of my three-year-old. I just don’t see it surviving any length of time in my household.

That being said, yes, VR is exactly where I believed gaming was heading for years. I’ve been excited about seeing the technology finally arrive, and I expect developers to continue to perfect it. I just don’t think I’m going to take the ride. In a few years, when the technology is less cumbersome, my daughter is out of the house more and I (hopefully) have more disposable income, I may revisit it. For now, I’ll be happy playing the curmudgeonly old man I never thought I’d become.

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