Walking through the marina in my hometown, I noticed a gaming arcade which has been around for a good twenty-plus years, in fact, longer than I’ve been alive. Anyway, a wave of nostalgia took over and I walked in.
Trying to keep the throttle pinned on Sega Manx TT, trying to down terrorists in Time Crisis or surviving the House of Dead – all games in their retro, pixilated graphics which were considered ground-breaking in their time.
So, after about 15 minutes (I’m a busy person), as I was walking back to the car, I came across a racing simulator centre. The place was packed with people playing the latest racing games, such as F1 2018, Forza Motorsport and Gran Turismo Sport. It featured five screens with a full Oculus Rift headset for that authentic racing experience (such a cliché).
And it got me thinking.
I had paid my couple of quid to have a full race on Manx TT, which lasted approximately seven minutes or so, with its interactive motorbike model as the controller, while for £6.00 for a 30 minute slot of local racing and just short of £11 for fifty-five minutes you could have the full setup of wheel, pedals, full HD monitor and the optional VR headset. So, I’ve just paid money to play a video game for seven minutes and these guys are paying money to play a video game for thirty minutes, with all the comforts and enhancements stated above.
Am I jumping forward in time to visualise what kids will be doing whilst waiting to go bowling (that’ll probably be in VR too) or in the Detroit: Become Human style shopping centres?
You would walk in, scan your eyes which have been implanted with a micro chip that allows you to pay for things, book a bowling alley and then go and pay for ten minutes to play Resident Evil 7 – because that is going to be a retro game in 50 years’ time, when video gaming is all AR.
Virtual Reality has become more and more popular over the last two years, especially with the release of PlayStation VR. They brought VR into the more “affordable” corner of the market.
Whilst early releases were mainly expansions to current games, with titles like Rogue One: X-Wing mission in Star Wars: Battlefront, the addition of VR support for RE7 and the hilarity of Surgeon Simulator, major developers had full games in the works.
Rocksteady Studios released a fully built Batman experience with Arkham VR part of the Arkhamverse canon, Star Trek: Bridge Crew with full playable missions of modern and original star ships and Bethesda’s rebuild of Doom for PSVR and the HTC Vive.
After playing the hell out of Arkham VR and working it alongside the main games, there haven’t been any major releases on VR to warrant much excitement. Only Job Simulator grasped me for any significant period of time and, since then, my play sessions have become shorter and the tedium of setting up VR for a fifteen to thirty-minute session has led to my PSVR gathering dust.
With the support of HTC, PC gamers have the bigger selection of VR titles. If you log onto Steam, you will see a significant number. Most of them are very well built but developed with the Vive in mind, with the more sophisticated tracking system that can pick up your body movements as well as your head. These games are packed with content. I remember watching a YouTuber play The Golf Club on the Vive and thinking how immersive that must feel having to walk around like actually playing the game of golf. Yet somehow, I think attention spans are at a level where only a few would play eighteen holes of VR golf straight through.
As written by Joshua Rivera in an article for GQ “VR is something best taken in small doses”, which makes it completely suitable for bowling alley arcades or gaming arcades. Come to think of it, more co-op games could be created, allowing more people to share the experience, while offering more social activity and teamwork, rather than the isolated sessions of VR. To my knowledge, the only VR game I’ve seen that requires numerous participants is Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes, requiring one or more persons talking the VR wearer through the process of disarming a virtual bomb. There may be others, however, only one VR headset is required. I am aware of a few VR games that have online connectivity and other players are involved, but maybe more local multiplayer options can be added in the future.
So don’t be surprised if in the future, you’ll be hitting virtual bowling pins with your virtual bowling ball while the kids are playing “arcade” games in VR.