Ten years ago, virtual reality was the property of speculative science fiction. Most tech-savvy sci-fi fans knew the term, but it was considered to be futuristic, pie-in-the-sky stuff. Images of people wearing apparatuses on their faces and being transported to alternate realities have been floating on the edge of our collective sub-conscious for quite some time, but there was very little expectation that such a thing could become a reality.
Certainly, not in our lifetimes.
Three years ago, it became very clear that virtual reality was indeed going to be a real thing. Images of maverick developers, working madly to refine the technology, began popping up in magazines. Demos started appearing at trade shows, and media testimonials started showing up here and there.
Two years ago, Project Morpheus rumors started swirling around. Suddenly, the idea that virtual reality would not only really exist in the world, but would be affordable and attainable to the average consumer started hitting home. People began to accept that there might be a PlayStation version of VR, though it would probably be a cheaper, shoddier version, mass-produced and unimpressive.
Today, you can buy the PSVR at your local Gamestop. I bought mine by waking up on the night of release, clicking a button on my phone, and rolling over to go back to sleep. The PSVR showed up on my front porch two days later. It now rests tucked in a basket in the corner of my living room (when not in use), its cords and Move controllers bundled neatly beside it. And it totally rocks my face off. It exceeds every expectation that I had, every time I strap it to my head.
It is not cheaply made. It is not shoddy. It is awesome.
What’s my point? We are living in extraordinary times, folks. With each passing year, more things that once seemed cool but unattainable are appearing in our daily lives.
I remember as a boy reading a magazine article about CD-ROMs, a startling new technology that was expected to sweep the nation and change home computing forever. The article breathlessly reported that you could store an entire encyclopedia set on one disc. With just a few advances in technology, they would be able to store small video files on discs to augment the encyclopedia entries.Very exciting stuff.
Now, of course, CD-ROMs are a thing of the distant past, replaced by the ability to simply pull code out of mid-air with ridiculously powerful portable computers that everyone carries in their pockets.
But of course, CD-ROMs were a vital step towards where we are today, technology-wise. They achieved critical mass in our culture, and for a time, we were driven by – and beholden to – the CD-ROM.
Other technologies have arrived with a splash, and then quickly faded to become just so much background noise. I remember watching the video conversations between Ripley and Burke in the first hour of Aliens with the same sense of wonder that I got from the CD-ROM article. Surely, video calls would never be possible.
Well, guess what? They are indeed possible, the technology now exists and is easily available, and NOBODY CARES. Millions of dollars were spent developing the ability to converse via video feed, and this functionality is freely accessible via the same portable computers we all carry with us. However, with its usual lack of predictability, our culture has moved in the exact opposite direction.
Instead of wanting to talk face-to-face, we now spend far more time shooting text messages to each other. Turns out, we don’t want to talk at all, if we can avoid it.
Which brings us back to VR, and specifically PSVR, arguably the first mass-market high functioning VR device. The PSVR is in its infancy, and the jury is still out as to whether it will receive market acceptance. It could either take the path of the CD-ROM (a very significant technological step on the way to better things), or it could become video calling (a neat technological advance, that ends up having very specific use cases, but is ultimately ignored by the general public).
Which way it ends up going is entirely dependent on the PSVR’s adoption rate, and whether it continues to be supported by software developers who are just dipping their toes in the waters of VR development.
Don’t be fooled. Competing PC rigs are great, but they are too cost prohibitive to gain mass acceptance. In the end, it is up to us, the video game market. If we want to see the glossy days of the future, where we can “jack in” to a variety of realities for entertainment, we have to get on board now and show the technology powerhouses (like Sony) that investing in further development of this tech is in their financial best interest. We need to put our money where our dreams are, as it were.
This is a new form of entertainment. The moment you strap the PSVR to your head, you realize that things have shifted. The experience can amaze, delight, and horrify.
Your body feels it when you pull back on the stick of your X-Wing in the new Star Wars Battlefront VR experience. You reel at the possibilities the first time you play with the drawing tool in the Harmonix Music VR demo. Moving even one more step forward towards an open doorway in Here They Lie becomes an impossible task, as your mind recoils in fright.
The PSVR is too darn cool to just let it become a footnote in video game history. A Virtual Boy. A Kinect. An Atari Jaguar. The PSVR must not be allowed to be relegated to the video game dustbin.
It must succeed with flying colors in order to move the technology forward. It needs to be a “CD-ROM”, and sidestep the pitfalls that would allow it to become “Video Call”. And the only way that will happen is if millions of people buy the thing.
If you are reading this, you probably have at least a passing interest in the future of VR. I would implore you to invest in a system now, to back up your interest with cold hard cash. If you have already made the leap and purchased a PSVR, tell your friends. Spread the word. Evangelize.
Let’s give this thing a strong start, so there is no doubt in anyone’s mind that it is here to stay. There is more at stake than just the PSVR. The entire entertainment landscape could shift towards something cooler than we ever thought we would see.
Get on board. Make the leap. Join this gaming revolution.
An opinion piece by Eric Hauter:
I am a dad with an ordinary 9-5 who enjoys gaming and writing. I am in no way associated with Sony.
Not a plant, not a plant, not a plant. But you know, if they wanted to give me a job, I’m listening.