Gaming seemingly evolves overnight. It feels like only yesterday that my little brother and I were playing a popular game, Spyro, on a PlayStation 1 gaming console. We thought 3D animation was the most innovative thing in the world - that is until the PlayStation went portable. The Nintendo Wii shortly followed, a phenomenon that took the world by storm. All of a sudden, people were experiencing the same pleasure many graphic designers did with their tablets, only now, it was in the form of a wireless controller that followed the movement of your hand.
Gaming innovation is one of the fastest-growing industries, projected to reach almost 23 billion dollars in worldwide revenue in the year 2020 according to Statista. This is almost triple the revenue it will make this year, in 2018. What’s the secret? The myriad new inventions such as holograms, face ID, the XBox Kinect and more.
However, the one that’s topping the charts right now is the use of virtual reality goggles, also known as VR. These devices work similarly to swim goggles but have a screen projected on the inside that allows the viewer to experience movies, TV, videos of all kind, as well as gaming. Gaming has topped the charts for VR users because of the typical player’s constant desire to be immersed in the world of the game they are playing.
According to a 2015 CNET article, "Nobody buys a piece of gaming hardware because they think it looks cool until there's a great experience to go along with it - the hardware simply opens the door. Cost is secondary to what gets us pulling out our wallets in the first place.”
This has had several effects on society. One concern, in particular, has been how people use VR to escape reality. The user might, and many often do get too immersed in the game, it feeling so real and all, and spend more time in front of a screen versus in the real world. This has inspired a new wave of science fiction entertainment, with one of the most popular novels being “Ready Player One”, a book about a futuristic Earth that has deteriorated, and people now live through a VR world to work, experience life, etc. This book was recently adapted into a film, although the concept of escaping into a new world isn’t new at all. This goes all the way back to 3D glasses in movies, as far as adapting eyewear to enhance a viewer's experience.
Another effect that VR has had on gaming is that it’s forced the major gaming companies to innovate or die.
Now, gaming companies have to create content that’s friendly with Oculus or Samsung, both who create goggles for this purpose. Some say the VR is an industry that’s simply a fad. However, everything is adapting to VR.
As an advertising student, I’m forced to consider VR in every ad I create, as gaming, movies, TV, etc. on VR devices will include advertising at some point or another. The growth of the market is astounding, with the company profile of Oculus stating that it was acquired by Facebook in 2012, according to Tech Crunch. This brings on a whole new set of consequences in 2018, as Facebook undergoes their privacy scandal.
As Tech Crunch discusses in the above mentioned article “Nobody, and I mean nobody, wants a Facebook-branded VR headset.” This is very true, which is why no branding has been done to Oculus by Facebook, but rather, they have simply continue to throw money at it in order to get it to a point where it can be accessible to everyone.
The chain continues, as this brings on a whole new set of consequences. At first, it was a luxury item to put a touchscreen in your pocket, but now it’s the new normal. With the inevitable normalization of VR headsets, many sectors will evolve exponentially. Gaming has endless potential. Could we see arcades in one hundred percent VR? Could we see more than just fighting and dancing games, but also games that promote real-life skills such as cooking, sewing, construction and more? VR has the potential to make tasks like these seem much more interesting than they currently are, as it puts control in the hands of designers to create an environment that promotes desired behaviors.
Social media also has enormous potential. Facebook has already promoted VR and Augmented reality social meetings for corporate purposes, but will you be able to walk along your news feed and play online Facebook games with goggles on? Will VR become the new way to be social on social media, and in general?
Will society function in a “Ready Player One” fashion? The effects on society and entertainment innovation have been incredible, but with an apparent monopoly between Oculus and Samsung, it’s possible that everyone will soon own one or the other, similar to how people now either own an iPhone or an Android. According to an article on thinkMobiles.com, “In 2016 there were 230 VR development companies, producing both virtual reality hardware and software. Based on these data and huge demand, experts predicted the 25-27% annual growth rate of VR gaming market, with total revenue exceeding $45B in 2025.”
All of the effects aren’t clear as we’re still looking ahead, but one thing is for sure: the next five years will be here within the next 12 months in terms of technology, and VR isn’t dying anytime soon.