For a couple of years now gamers have been getting increasingly excited about the Oculus Rift – which could revolutionise games, by making them more immersive than ever.
Essentially, it’s the closest yet we’ve come to the fabled “virtual reality headset” with the Rift sporting dual screens that sit right in front of your eyes, and headphones for sound – plus a whole bunch of sensors to ensure that your head is being tracked (so when you move your head, you look around in the game).
It isn’t a tinpot hobbyist idea either. The company building it was founded in 2012 and managed to raise $2.4m on Kickstarter… and then went on to raise another $91m from other investors. The company have Doom and Quake creator John Carmack on board – and the company has already won the plaudits of the likes of Gabe Newell from Valve, and Mincraft creator Notch. So in short: the Oculus Rift is going to be a BIG DEAL.
Whilst it is still only in development (the plan is to release either late 2014 or early 2015) – with only a handful of lucky developers getting their hands on one so far – it is slowly edging towards a commercial release and people are beginning to ask the question: could it go mainstream?
Personally, I’m sceptical of its wide appeal. Do we really want a future where we sit on our sofas, isolated from the world around us, looking like Daft Punk?
I don’t know about you, but when I play games, I like to play whilst lounging on my sofa, leaning to one side, communicating with my girlfriend, who (as you might expect) I enjoy spending time with – rather than with my head locked away in some ultra immersive gaming world with bullets whistling past my head and a relentless visual assault on my eyes. There’s a reason I haven’t decorated my lounge with a “Normandy Landings” theme.
I suspect other gamers may think the same. We only have to look at the mixed success of motion controls to let history be our guide. Whilst we all enthusiastically bought a Nintendo Wii and maybe even a Kinect, the appeal of the motion controls wore off rather quickly after we remembered that after a long day at work, the last thing you want to do is have the TV bark at you instructions to jump about. Even Microsoft have admitted that full motion controls are essentially for party games – with the Xbox One’s use of motion and gestures employed much more subtly.
But all this said – I still hope the Rift will be wildly successful. I’m dying to have a go myself on one – and I’ve no doubt that there will be a reliable mass of super hardcore gamers who use the headset every session. But I’d also like to remain in the real world too.
So what do you think? Let me know in the comments. And do feel free to tell me how wrong when we’re chatting together in something resembling The Matrix in a few years time.