“Why do virtual reality fans hate action?” A friend of mine asked me in the car last night.
I’d just gotten back from the WEST Conference (#WESTConf) in Toronto and mentioned how much I agreed with Ana Serrano, Chief Digital Officer for the Canadian Film Centre, who said “Portal and Minecraft on the Oculus will blow your mind.”
I, of course, threw the Myo armband into the equation for the complete experience.
“It’s always Portal or Minecraft,” he complained. “Demos are ‘walk through a forest’ or ‘sit in a dark room.’ Why do VR fans have such boring taste in games?”
“It’s not their taste,” I told him. “With a VR headset on, you want to walk through a forest.”
He wasn’t sold.
Tom Emrich, co-founder of the conference, had invited me to speak on a panel about music creation with the Myo armband, but my friend has a one-track mind when it comes to gaming.
I shocked him with the news that lots of shooting games are unplayable on VR. They make you feel sick. It happens because you’re running around at about 30km/h. When your brain knows that your body shouldn’t be running that fast, the disconnect makes you queasy (a fact Serrano mentioned in her panel).
With a VR headset on, you want to walk at exactly the speed you usually move, because you’re inside the game. In fact, I’d bet real money that the first time you wear a VR headset you’ll want to walk slower in the game than you do in life. You want to savour the details, explore at your own pace, and give your brain time to catch up to the marvels your eyes take in. It’s totally immersive, an experience that defies description. And you don’t need all those over-the-top tricks to crank the intensity up, like super fast running. In fact, they’ll just seem silly once you’ve got the real thing.
Hyper speed is a hangover of gaming on a 2D screen. When you’re looking at a flat screen, rapid speed gives the illusion of depth. Gamers feel more immersed in their environment because they’re constantly pushing forward.
But with a VR headset on, the speed feels cartoonish. Immersion is already built in. It’s like seeing theater makeup on German film actors from the 1920s. Thick, black eye shadow makes sense when folks way back in the cheap seats need to see your expressions, but with a camera you can shoot a closeup and convey tons of emotion in a much more subtle way.
When new technology meets old techniques, you’re in for a bumpy ride.
You’re looking at the German Expressionist version of running at 30km/h to create the illusion of depth.
As different as live theater is from film, virtual reality is different from a flat screen experience. Maybe even more-so.
Of course, this disconnect only shows up when you’re trying to do things you can *actually do *in VR environments, like run, jump, or walk.
We have an Iron Man simulator for the Oculus Rift, integrated with the Myo armband. You put your hands at your sides with your palms facing down to engage the thrusters on your hands, and soar off at the speed of an F-15 jet, clouds drifting by.
But this time, your brain has no basis for comparison. It just feels real.
Image source: 1.