The Age of Encumbrance: Project Morpheus, VR and Wearables
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.
On March 18th, Sony introduced their VR answer to the Oculus Rift. They have tentatively called it Project Morpheus, as it is only a prototype. In the announcement on the PlayStation blog, Shu Yoshida called virtual reality “the future of games”. Personally speaking, I have some concerns with this possible future. Do hear me out.
I am troubled by the notion of VR becoming the way of games. Perhaps this makes me into a reactionary, or a mere feeble opponents to progress. Especially, because the experience as such seems to be a fascinating and involving one. Adam Sessler speaks highly of VR, Polygon's Michael McWhertor describes VR as "an astounding experience".
Rest assured, I do not doubt two things: First, VR is a fascinating and involving experience, I’m sure. Second, I do not expect VR to replace the conventional way of gaming (in front of a screen, with a controller in hand), in the short term.
In the long term, a more expanded vision of VR will almost certainly become the way we play videogames.
For the time being, stuff like the Oculus Rift, Project Morpheus, or Google Glass - and to a lesser extent, wearables like the Pebble watch - make me think that we may be entering an age of encumbrance.
Technology - judging by the current trends - will come to encumber us physically and psychologically.
Like 3D glasses, Google Glass, the VR headset or the Pebble watch, are a physical encumbrance. They make technology a part of your physical body in an inextricable, encumbering way. The VR headset especially represents an extreme example as it covers your head and eyes. Which leads me to the psychological encumbrance:
In the case of VR, we will literally be buried within the screen. VR effects a separation from the outside environment and succeeds in digitizing almost the entire experience. Virtual Reality envelops our experience like a digital feedbag. Gaming already is a solitary, isolated activity. VR will turn videogames into masturbatory exercises in solipsism. Not that that cannot be fun, but is it the way we want to interact with art?
I know that my iPhone has long turned me into a cyborg. It is my diary, my social portal, my knowledge base. Yet its physicality is about as close as I want to get to my technology.
VR is something else entirely. Do we want to bury ourselves inside our screens? Do we want our experiences to become solipsisms?
To some degree, VR will teach us what it really means to be alone, and I am troubled by that.