Thought on VR & the future of “gaming”

Regarding the future of gaming and VR, a colleague recently asked me: What do you think will be big?? And Important?

This is what I had to say on the matter:

Aaaaah, THE FUTURE. A tricky thing to predict. I’m not surprised that Head Mounted Displays are seeming to take off; I say seeming because I have yet to see the actual GAMES and APPS, and I have yet to see actual SALES. But the tech seems to be at about the level it needs to be (as opposed to ~15 years ago – remember the Virtual Boy?!), and there is some zeitgeist among the public and tech sector, and there is competition among big companies so these are good signs. That said, I think you understand that VR introduces a whole new set of VERY difficult design challenges, in my opinion. And certainly so when we think about Video Games. I think that games that will work on VR will have to operate in a drastically different fashion than what has become the standards for games today, especially when we think about “twitch” gaming; twitch in VR sounds like a recipe for disaster. I think VR via HMD’s lends itself much more to shorter, but more fully immersive interactive experiences. I think the best domains for this are education (schools & museums – imagine bringing a historical place ALIVE to classes that usually yawn at “history”) and for advertising – both commercial and for social action/PSA’s.

For social action, check this out: http://useofforce.immersivejournalism.com/ Their lead designer, Nonny, is incredible.

Also this from the same team: http://www.immersivejournalism.com/project-syria-premieres-at-the-world-economic-forum/

So if you ask me, VR does not lend itself to the type of gaming that has made “gaming” such a massive thing. It does not lend itself to sitting back for 2, 3, 4+ hours on an afternoon and tearing through a game’s story or for playing competitively. I think VR is just TOO INTENSE and TOO IMMERSIVE for that. I now realize that Facebook was super smart – shrewd even – for buying out Occulus, because VR can be an EXCELLENT social media tool.

That said: Have you heard of the Omni? http://www.virtuix.com/ I could see this going places and being cool for labs and for gyms, but I also don’t see a ton of people sticking these in their homes.

Instead, I think the tech that will be more important for the future will be tech that makes for a more personalized experience. So either game systems / AI that is more dynamic and reactive to YOU as a player.

Example: the latest Lord of The Rings game was lauded for its Nemesis System where the missions you complete dynamically alter the power structure of the orc army; enemies begin to remember you for your exploits, and long-running feuds develop because of the player.  2.5 minute overview of this. There are some awesome videos of YouTube showing all sorts of crazy outcomes from such a dynamic and personal system: 1) “The Ultimate Betrayal” & 2) Read players reporting in on “Who is your worst nemesis?”

Similarly, I think games which tailor themselves to your play style and/or your personality will stand above the rest. Maybe I’m biased because of my research, but I think that the tech that will matter most is unobtrusive stuff that helps personalize the experience. Yup, I’m talking about biofeedback and things of that nature. There’s still a bit of a dark art to collecting and interpreting biofeedback data accurately and meaningfully, and this is also a new frontier for design challenges. But when I look at something like Nevermind or Mindlight (again, I’m biased), I see enormous potential; these are deeply personal experiences and where the biofeedback is embedded in the design. Plus the tech is relatively unobtrusive, especially so when using Intel’s new RealSense cameras. So I think biofeedback has greater potential in the gaming world than VR.

Interestingly, Nevermind is developing Occulus support, and in 2 months I’ll be working with DEEP, an immersive VR game/experience that uses players’ breathing as input. Very excited to see it in action, so you’ll hear more on that too ;-p

My two and a half cents ;-p

-Adam

Adam Lobel

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