KEVETT: Virtual reality is the future of video game technology
Opinions Column: Gamer Next Door
A couple of days ago, I finally picked up a new (to me) GTX 1080 graphics card to replace my long obsolete GTX 780Ti in my PC, and what a world of difference the additional VRAM makes. I picked up an Oculus Rift Virtual Reality (VR) headset a couple of years ago when they were first released. The headset did not work very well with my 780Ti, but it ran games nonetheless, and I was deeply impressed. Even with a choppy frame rate, VR is an incredibly immersive experience, one that everyone should try as soon as they can. Now that I finally have acquired a 1080 graphics card with its lusty 8GB of GDDR5X video memory, I can achieve the 90 fps threshold for VR. If you have never played a VR game on an outdated PC setup, playing below 90 frames per second feels choppy, awkward and outright nauseating.
We are only in the early stages of game and hardware development for the VR platform, but it already completely revolutionizes the way games are played. Good VR experiences make you feel like you are literally inside the game. Inside the headset, your entire field of view is covered by two screens, one for each eye, and your physical movement is accurately tracked to give you a second to none sense of interaction with gaming environments. I have yet to pick up motion controllers for my Oculus Rift, but playing VR games with a controller or my racing wheel is inherently enjoyable. "Lucky’s Tale", a free game that ships with every Oculus Rift, plays like an amazing tech demonstration for how third-person experiences could be developed for VR going forward. The game feels like you are playing around with a little diorama set. The experience is adorable, colorful and diverse in presentation.
Through its stereoscopic 3D technology, VR gives you a sense of physical depth that no other platform can replicate, and games like "Superhot VR" utilize that perk to its fullest extent. In it, players are given short gameplay sequences — 10 to 20 second action movie-esque scenes — in which they must take down bad guys with whatever weapons are nearby. The sensation of having a bullet whizz past your head like in "Superhot VR" is unsettling and immersive.
Do not even get me started on the rollercoaster tech demonstrations. These few-minute-long experiences give players the feeling that they are riding in an out-of-control rollercoaster. These coaster games truly give you vertigo — I felt my stomach drop several times while playing — and it was interesting to say the least. I have yet to try a horror game in VR, but I am not so sure if my body is ready for that just yet.
From my sessions with VR, racing games have been my favorite. With a full-fledged racing wheel setup, VR is a whole other beast. Couple the realistic force-feedback that a good racing wheel will give you with the sense of speed and space that VR affords, and it is easy to get lost in the experience. My favorite game so far for VR has to be "Dirt Rally." The game really gives you the sensation that you are flying down a tiny dirt path, at 100 mph, in a screaming rally car, with tree branches, mud and spectators zooming past your periphery.
If you have the money, buy a VR setup — you will not regret it. The most fun you likely will have will be in showing the platform to people in your life that do not normally game, like your parents, aunts, uncles or that weird cousin you see once a year at holiday gatherings. There are not a ton of Triple-A quality games that fully support VR just yet, but in the next couple of years I fully expect to see the platform become the next big thing. Many of the games out now for VR feel more like tech demos than actual, fleshed-out experiences, but the few shining examples of quality development that does exist serve as benchmarks for the medium’s inevitable future success. At the very least, find a way to try VR out, it will change the way you look at entertainment forever.
Mitchell Kevett is a School of Arts and Sciences senior majoring in history and minoring in political science. His column, "Gamer Next Door," runs on alternate Wednesdays.
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