Oculus Rift: The Future of Gaming?

Virtual reality has long been the stuff of fantasy in the world of games and gamers; a matter of dreams and science fiction. In some respects, true, stepping-into-another-world virtual reality represents the pinnacle of video games and an overall technological goal in the industry. Small steps have been made towards this goal, perhaps, if the definition of virtual reality is broadened. Second Life offers up some of the ambition and goals of virtual reality, but is a stilted overall experience that is now quite dated. Recent video games with enhanced high definition graphics and increasingly sophisticated immersion techniques, while not attempting true virtual reality, have created worlds for gamers that come alive in their own respect. The oft-praised Bethesda gem, Skyrim, is one of the finest examples of immersive gaming, opening an exciting, rich, detailed, and often beautiful world for gamers to explore. How could the world of Skyrim be made even more immersive?

Enter the Oculus Rift, a new head-mounted display (HMD) that is poised to light the gaming industry on fire. What’s so special about the Rift? It actually works. It’s not an exaggeration to say that the track record of head-mounted displays used for video games sucks. All fingers point to Nintendo’s 1997 Virtual Boy for tarnishing the general image. Promising to offer a virtual reality experience with true 3-D graphics, the Virtual Boy turned out to be a blurry, red-stained mess that quickly fell out of favor with the public, taking the idea of head-mounted displays and virtual reality with it. Gimmick after gimmick marketed similar games and displays in the following years, promising “real” boxing, sword fighting, and the like. Ten years ago, these cheap, knock-offs flooded the discount bins at Toys R Us. Now, no one even takes the idea seriously.

 

virtual boyOculus-Rift

The Occulus Rift needs to be taken seriously. First shown at E3 2012, the Rift had a bigger showing recently at CES 2013, igniting excitement across the internet. What’s remarkable about the Rift is that it isn’t very flashy or equipped with an abundance of special features and promises. It just works. Though little information on the official specs and design of the Rift have been announced, what can be seen from video footage is a HMD with two optical lenses for each eye that interacts seamlessly with whatever game it is applied to, allowing gamers to move their heads to view the world around them and see the world even through their peripheral vision. Already programmed in testing for such classics as Doom 3 and Crysis, the Rift has already proved more than capability. If the footage of the Rift in action doesn’t sell it enough, watching first timers try it out at CES is truly a thing to behold. Time and time again, the second each tester moves their head for the first time, their jaws drop in disbelief.

oculus rift

And why shouldn’t they? This is an awesome new technology entering the industry at a time when there are already concerns in the news about new games being dangerously immersive. Things are moving fast. One of the most remarkable constraints that the Rift may remove from first-person games in particular is the stationary relationship between the game character’s point of vision, and the aiming of his gun or reticle. Though it has come to feel so natural, looking solely in the direction that your gun is pointed is rather absurd and unrealistic. With the Rift, you can look one way and aim another. Think about that again. Look one way, aim another.

It may not quite be full, true virtual reality, but the Oculus Rift is a major step in the direction towards that overall goal. It’s gotten the head portion of the body down pat, but that was the easy part. Now it’s someone else’s turn to get the rest of us in there.

  3 comments for “Oculus Rift: The Future of Gaming?

  1. March 10, 2013 at 3:15 pm
    All fingers point to Nintendo’s 1997 Virtual Boy for tarnishing the general image. Promising to offer a virtual reality experience with true 3-D graphics, the Virtual Boy turned out to be a blurry, red-stained mess that quickly fell out of favor with the public, taking the idea of head-mounted displays and virtual reality with it.

    A couple corrections here: Virtual Boy was 1995, not 97, and, having played one very recently, it’s not blurry at all. It has an adjustable 3D effect, which works much like the 3DS, which did give me headaches after a few minutes.

    It’ll be interesting to see what happens with Oculus Rift. Of course, the dream of VR is one that’s been derailed many, many times, and the (incorrect, I think) idea that immersion in a fictional world is the true aim of fiction (the Holodeck Myth) is one that could trace all the way back to Plato.

  2. Hughes
    March 20, 2013 at 11:15 pm

    I actually didn’t even know this thing existed before I read your post, but it does look pretty cool. I do think that games are trying to become more physically immersive, like with the recent push towards motion control and 3D, but I think that we’re in the early stages and still a long way off from making it actually work well. This is pretty groundbreaking though, and I’m interested to see where it will go. That being said, I just wish there was a way to make virtual reality and motion controls less…ridiculous looking. I remember the first time playing the Wii and eventually feeling like a moron flapping my arms at the screen. I’m actually fine just using a controller and trying to immerse myself through story alone, though I know that can’t always work. But yeah, I’ll be looking forward to how this develops.

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