Virtual Reality: Gimmick, or next step in gaming



Virtual reality headsets like the Oculus Rift are becoming the talk of the video game world. Columnist Slaughter compares virtual reality gaming with past video games that were perceived as revolutionary or gimmicky

REID SLAUGHTER, Opinion Columnist

In 2006, Nintendo, the Japanese video game giant responsible for titles such as “Super Mario Bros.” and the “Legend of Zelda,” released a new video game console called the Wii.

Initially the response was mixed. The console featured motion controls as it’s primary controller and many in the video game industry and in the gaming community believed that the console would not sell and was doomed.

The Wii did the exact opposite. It went on to sell more units than the Playstation 3 and the Xbox 360, vastly more powerful and “serious” system.

This isn’t the first time that a gimmick has led to a revolution in video games.

Originally in the 1980’s, video game consoles were a gimmick as, at the time, there were arcades and desktop computers capable of playing games.

However, your desktop didn’t play “Mario” or “Sonic.” Later in the 90’s, CD’s became the new gimmick of which Nintendo failed to initially jump on with their N64 still using cartridges. Then it became the online play gimmick with the Playstation 2 and Xbox original during the early 2000’s.

This doesn’t mean that all gimmicks are an automatic success story. Sega, former gaming giant had released a full color, cable-TV signal receiving, version of their home system (the Sega Master System, known as the Genesis in the U.S.) as the Sega Game Gear Portable.

It failed as a product due to the cost and the fact that it used up eight AA batteries in 15 minutes. Sega would later create an online service for it’s Sega console (in 1995, mind you) via a cartridge so that you could download full games to your system a decade before Microsoft and Sony decided to.

However, it failed as the internet was not mature enough to handle such an idea.

Now it seems the next gimmick is virtual reality (VR). Seen with the popularity of the Oculus Rift and similar products. Is this the next step in gaming (Nintendo) or is this a short lived gimmick (Sega)? Here’s the rundown:

Right now there aren’t any real games for the Rift or similar products that utilize the VR in the same way that “Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess” or “Super Mario Galaxy” utilized the Wiimote. Most of the games are shovelware tech demos (simple games used to demonstrate how the technology works).

This, however, doesn’t mean that it will not happen in the future. But who is going to develop an AAA (high budget) video game for a headset who’s gameplay would not translate outside of the VR?

The headset can be used for simulators such as Armed Assault 3 (ArmA 3) or DCS Flight Simulator, but those are niche games that have a niche community.

Even if there was a serious library of games made for or supportive of VR, will people go out of their way to buy and use it?

While I welcome any new additions to the video gaming experience, I feel that VR will go the way of 3D Movies, once and then that’s it.