Virtual Reality in Gaming and Beyond

A girl is riding a bike. She is wearing a VR headset, which completely covers her eyes

writer icon Paige Whitehead     Sebastian Voortman   |   Game Development     🕐 07. Sep. 2018

As video game producers strive to be at the top in a competitive market, will virtual reality (VR) be a game changer?

Bigger and Better
When video games were first created in the 1960s, they were clunky, in black and white, and simple in their design and execution. Since then, video games have evolved along with the rest of technology. With cinematic level graphics, professional voice acting, and masterful storytelling, what is left for video games to improve on?

Bringing video games to life may be the answer. Virtual reality is not necessarily new in the world of technology. Flight simulators and combat simulators have provided a safe mode of training in dangerous disciplines since the 1970s. In today’s world, the advances and uses of virtual reality are growing.

Current VR headsets take advantage of the user's entire field of vision. Surround-sound headphones follow the user's movements with ever-changing sound to match. This can allow people to further immerse themselves in the games they play by providing an extremely realistic experience.

A Growing Market
Sony’s VR may be one of the most notable console VR systems on the market, having sold over 3 million units so far. Designed to work with Sony’s PlayStation 4, it gives players the opportunity to experience big budget games in virtual reality.

For those who do not own a console, many VR headsets are compatible with smartphones, where the smartphone becomes the screen to the VR experience. Players can download apps to give them a virtual reality experience without the need for a gaming console.

Many VR games are multi-platform, meaning they can be used on many different systems. Multi-platform games coupled with smartphone technology opens a large market of serious gamers, casual gamers, and those who are simply curious about what VR can do.

VR games are being made to match all types as well. There are horror games for those who love a scare, relaxing games for those looking for an escape, children’s games, and everything in between.

The Future of VR
Microsoft recently announced they were putting their research into a VR system on hold to wait for better technology. Though VR has advanced greatly, there is always room for improvement where technology is concerned. The most advanced VR headsets, such as Sony’s, still required a wired connection to the console. This could make running away from zombies a trip hazard, and may lessen the immersion experience.

The more recent games are still somewhat unrefined, relying on motion sensors or controllers to move. To consolidate the bigger games into VR, graphics quality must be sacrificed. However, technology is always improving and one day VR may be a seamless transition into another world. For now, it still has some updating to do before it competes on the same level as traditional video games.

Beyond Gaming
Video game producers still lead the market in VR technology. But the advances they make could benefit a far broader scope. Virtual reality video games could provide entertainment as well as life-changing resources.

Virtual Reality is currently used as a form of pain management. By distracting patients from their symptoms and providing a relaxing environment, it is a viable alternative to addictive opioids.

Surgeons can use VR to practise and learn difficult procedures, making them more prepared when a real-life situation arises. Those with emotional or mental disorders can benefit from a relaxing virtual reality experience that teaches them coping skills. They can also use VR for exposure therapy, reducing symptoms of PTSD and other anxiety disorders.

Virtual reality may have a way to go, but the possibilities it opens up could be well worth the wait.

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