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Is VR a Reset of Gaming History?

The hype surrounding new VR innovations is immense...but have we been down this road before?

For all the complaining that gamers seem to do about gimmicks getting in the way of quality games, they never seem to stop being won over by them during their early days. Motion controls? We originally loved them! All of Nintendo's silly peripherals? We loved them too! Virtual reality? Well, huh, I suppose no one really liked that back in the 90's. The hype surrounding new VR innovations is immense... but have we been down this road before?

The concept of virtual reality originated in the 1935 short story, "Pygmalion's Spectacles" by Stanley G. Weinbaum. This story contained a set of goggles which, when equipped, allowed people to experience fictional events.

Since then, different takes on virtual reality have appeared throughout an abundance of different books, movies, and essentially every other form of media. And with each appearance of it, our appetite just got more wet.

Come 1995, and Nintendo released their newest "portable" system, the Virtual Boy. Supposedly, this was the next big step for gaming, and we were going to be more immersed than ever.

This did not end up happening.

 

The Virtual Boy was a joke in 1995, and it's a joke now. With barely any games, hideous black and red visuals, a design which made it hard to use, and the ability to cause eye strain if used for more than about 20 minutes at a time, it's known in the gaming community as one of the worst systems of all time.

Now, while no one ended up liking the thing once it came out, people were super excited about it beforehand. And while comparing modern VR devices to the Virtual Boy is like comparing Theodore Roosevelt to Donald Trump, the possibility remains that we're setting ourselves up for another let down.

The Vive, the Oculus Rift, the Playstation VR, all incredibly well made devices. But soon, like with all gimmicks, the novelty will fade away, and the systems will need quality games to support them, especially given some of their radically high price tags. And so far, for the most part, it doesn't look like developers are focusing as much on the games, as much as what cool things they can do with their device. 

 

And if we don't end up getting these games, the industry will have spent several years treading ground it already had two decades ago.

Regarding the games, there's also a chance that what ends up being done with them will be reminiscent of things we've seen before. While the Virtual Boy was a complete flop, with games that barely utilized VR, we've had quality VR games in arcades for many years. In fact, a lot of what modern VR devices offer are just perfected features of certain arcade games, mainly rail shooters.

So what could be done to keep things fresh? Well, a VR game set in a 2D environment would be something different. Maybe it could even be a little more cartoonish than other games on the platform. There's no law that says that all VR games have to contain realism, especially since at their core, video games are, and always will be, a form of escapism.

How crazy would Cuphead be in VR?

Are you a fan of any VR devices? Which one is your favorite? And do you think that VR is just a reset of gaming history? Let me know in the comments!

Published Oct. 26th 2016

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