4 Ways Virtual Reality Will Change The Future (of Gaming)

As virtual reality continues to boom, it also opens new doors in the gaming industry.
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We’ve spoken to game writer and narrative designer Rob Morgan to get his view on what the future of gaming will bring and how Virtual Reality will play a role in it.

Virtual Reality is no longer niche. From education to healthcare, VR applications are evolving fast.
Gaming, social behaviour and new technologies are interconnected. This synergy is able to transform the way we behave, experience situations and broaden our horizon, but also allows game designers to develop new gaming experiences.
Being an early adopter of technology, experimenting with it and combining it with existing phenomena and social schemes opens new opportunities in the entertainment industry. 
We’ve spoken to game writer and narrative designer Rob Morgan to get his view on what the future of gaming will bring and how Virtual Reality will play a role in it.

WHAT IS VIRTUAL REALITY?

Virtual Reality (V.R.) is any technology where you eliminate distractions with opacity, which replaces as many of the users senses as possible with a world that you are put into. Although we tend to envision the classic 90’s plastic space helmet only over the eyes, audio is incredibly important and has developments in haptic, or even olfactory and touch technology, that can all be folded into the V.R. experience.

“The bottom line is, that you try to eliminate as much as possible of the real world from your sensory experience and replace it with the virtual one” -

1. Not possible in reality is possible in virtual reality

"V.R. doesn’t just show you things, it brings you in to the scene, and radically embodies you in the simulation, and that has capacity to not just, let us see things from perspectives we would never have imagined, and put us literally into the shoes of other people, let us see their experiences, or let us see experiences we wouldn’t have thought of.
Virtual reality technology creates the world of imagination, which is might be capable of breaking the boundaries in traditional education and learning. Children for instance learn best by doing. They shouldn’t just read about history — they should ‘be’ historians. They shouldn’t just study archaeology — they should ‘be’ archaeologists."

But V.R. is not only to step into someone else's shoes: "There’s no reason that the person you are in the simulation shouldn’t be yourself. You could represent an enhanced self, whereby your achievements are very closely linked with yourself, your identity and even how you’re embodied. You could for instance achieve something and that results in visual muscle growth, or in medals."
Medical developments are being pursued where visualising the effects of exercise on the body is shown to have a positive impact in motivating people to perform exercise. If you show them an accelerated virtual visualisation of how a recovery will work, then people are more able to visualise it themselves even though it will take place over a longer term in reality.

2. Emotions: Bringing the scenes closer to the people

V.R. lets you implicate the users in what’s happening around them, even more. It gives you a lot more tools than in flat-screen.

"Flat-screen gaming at its best can make you feel guilty, or bad about what’s going on. But with V.R. you can really turn the dial up on that and make you feel like you’re there, and that you are a witness to what’s happening and you have a responsibly towards the events around you. That’s something that games have so far been able to do at their very, very best, but V.R. has the potential to give you more tools to do that, and that’s super exciting."

3. The Importance of the Protagonist

"In flat-screen gaming, the protagonist tended to be a pretty safe choice: it’d be a brown-haired dude, with a dead girlfriend, because most flat-screen games previously were built on huge budgets."

In V.R. we’re starting to see that it’s actually fostering a more interesting approach. It’s hard to role-play someone you’re not interested in. Whereas giving you someone interesting, even if they’re very different to you, and they’re not somebody we’re told we should easily identify with, then you’re interested in going back to that simulation again and again.

"The reason why V.R. is exciting to me is that you are present differently. It’s possible to have V.R. simulations where you’re just a floating camera, but even then, you feel more present in the scene, in whatever’s happening around you, that you do when you’re watching a game on a screen on the other side of the room. Even if it’s a live-action, 360, very straightforward Virtual Reality experience of being in the front row of a Bruce Springsteen concert, you will have to have an answer for the question of ‘Who am I?’ in this simulation. And if the answer is that you are yourself, that’s fine. But you have to know, in a way that you don’t have to know in flat-screen, because your relationship with the events you are seeing is different."

4. Fostering social behaviour with collaborative gaming situations

V.R. also has a huge potential to create social experiences in gaming – imagine one person is in the V.R. headset; only he or she can see the virtualised elements.
Imagine a puzzle where that person can see the virtual elements, and her or his job is to communicate to the team what they’re looking at. It’s the team’s job to infer from that, what's the right thing to do.

These social situations of sharing information and collaborating with different skills is nothing new. Take astronauts: The idea is that the man or woman who gets to go up and be in space has to be pretty good at everything and have a specialisation. They should, in theory, be able to fix most things on the spacecraft; they should know what everything is called and so forth. But if they go out onto a spacewalk, or they’re doing a particular mission, then the people who are radioing instructions to them and are just as an important part of the team.

In gaming, this kind of playing is called "asynchronous gameplay" where different users have different kinds of information and have to combine them together to solve a problem in front of them.  That’s a fascinating social experience.

Combining this with V.R. it's not just taking advantage of the fact the screen is closer to the users eyes, it’s taking advantage of the fact that one user is locked into a type of perception, and other users around them can have completely different types of perceptions.

We’re starting to see new kinds of games being developed, where you don’t have shared information, and part of the game exists at a meta-level where the gameplay is successfully and effectively sharing the information you’ve got with the people around you. Imagine a bomb disposal, and only a person in a headset can see the bomb and has to describe the cables, say what colours they are, see the design, describe it to the team; the team looks through the manual, tells him or her what to do, to cut the cable....One person has the control panel in front of him/her and has to decide – if they’re diffusing a bomb, they have to decide which wire to cut, but doesn’t necessarily know and them and the rest of the team have to work it out, and that requires a spread of expertise. Someone is literally researching on the internet; someone is doing math puzzles to work it out.

"What I’m especially interested in is the interplay between intimate and public. A lot of the VR experiences we see are designed to be solo entertainment experiences where you're making a commitment when you put the helmet on and know you're going to be solidly entertained for a while. You settle into that experience. But for me, actually the social element is really important in V.R., and the fact that there might be other people in the room, the fact that they might be able to participate in your experience actually is really cool."

ABOUT ROB MORGAN:
Rob Morgan is a game writer, narrative designer and voice director. He has written and designed interactive narratives for platinum-selling console titles and award-winning browser, mobile and ARG projects.

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