The Potential of VR

While the devices haven't quite gone mainstream just yet, virtual reality has largely dominated 2016 in tech, and specifically gaming. Thanks to a combination of CES 2016 reveals and ongoing news related to the forthcoming consoles, we've all come to accept this as the year of virtual reality, during which in-home gaming may change forever.

Even given all of this acceptance, however, no one can say for sure which specific video games will be leading the way when we finally start to see VR hardware flying off the shelves. We've heard about some titles coming out, as well as some concepts in early development, but there's no telling which ones might best harness the unique capabilities of VR and capture the public's imagination.

But in the name of speculation, let's consider some conventional video game genres and whether or not they have serious potential on VR devices.

First-Person Shooters

The potential of FPS games on VR has been doubted by a lot of people, despite a few pretty promising demos over the last year or two. While the immersive qualities in such games are convincing and impressive, there seems to be a problem with movement. On the one hand, a stationary game isn't a proper FPS; on the other, motion is tricky when we're talking about playing in a home environment. Ultimately, this write-up of a developing game called Raw Data probably summarizes the case for FPS: it sounds like a terrific game, but the writer specifies using a 15 ft.-by-15 ft. space to play, and that's just not realistic for a lot of home gamers.
Similarly playing FPS while in a seated position, for most people results in nausea. Imagine sitting in your chair and suddenly you start running forward, turn 180 degrees, turn back and jump down off a ledge. Yeah, you're going to feel bad, very quick!

Open World Adventures

Fallout, Uncharted, Far Cry, Tomb Raider, Assassin's Creed, etc. These are all popular titles that can be described as open world adventures, and the category has thus far been largely ignored by VR developers (other than the occasional rumor, such as that an Assassin's Creed VR experience is on the way). Ultimately if shooters require too much motion to be reliable on VR, it's hard to imagine games like this having too much involvement.


Racing games are arguably leading the way in VR. Of the many titles and demos announced, a relatively large portion belong to this genre, which seems to be the most natural fit for the format. The idea that motion is heavily involved, but the fact that the player himself can remain stationary makes for perfect adaptations. Leading titles would be Project Cars and Assetto Corsa.


Sports gaming is an interesting category in that it would appear to depend almost entirely on the sport whether or not a given game could work well on VR. Interestingly, the best preview of which sports will work best may have been provided by Nintendo a decade ago in the lineup of Wii Sports games. Tennis, baseball, golf, and even table tennis all work well thanks to first person perspectives, relatively stationary play, and motion controls. On the other hand, bigger team sports such as basketball and hockey would appear to make for tough adaptation projects.


It's quite easy to imagine a bland version of casino gaming on VR, and something of the sort may well come out in the earlier days of the new consoles. But genuinely realistic casinos may also be on the way, given some trends in the casino gaming industry already in effect. At this site, for instance, players have the option of enjoying live casino games called by human dealers and populated by other players from around the world. Such interaction on VR would bring the casino environment to life in a way that could make for one of the better community experiences in gaming.

Puzzle Solving

This is a broad category, but one that's almost sure to see some success, even if it comes in the form of mini-games or new versions of existing apps. In some cases, simple touch and explore games could make for natural VR experiences, but there is some potential for larger games as well. For example, some would consider Minecraft to be a sort of puzzle game, and we've already seen a very exciting Minecraft VR experience demonstrated using their Hololens AR device.


Finally, there are some of the most tried and true genres to consider: the fighters, brawlers, and platformers that have been so popular from the days of early consoles to the rise of app gaming. From Super Mario games to Street Fighter titles these have always been reliable games for their relative simplicity and reliance on fun characters, combat, and achievement. It's hard to imagine these games translating well to VR, though it's undeniable that gamers would love the chance to hop turtle shells in a Mario environment or fight off Ryu and Ken in a first-person Street Fighter game. Lucky's Tale is the first real platformer from Oculus and works well, although I played it for an hour or so before moving on. We'll have to wait and see if those concepts win out and lead to some strong efforts, but this category doesn't seem like a primary focus.

We still don't know which games will be leading the way. But simply by examining these groups and what we are aware of in VR capabilities we can at least gain an idea of what types of games we'll likely be seeing first or most frequently.

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