Virtual reality presents a new medium for artists and writers to transport their audiences to new worlds. However, whereas previously viewers were only able to be immersed to a certain level due to being able to see the real world beyond and surrounding the screen, their reality can now become completely provided by the technology.
By fully surrounding a player in a world, they can get the sense that they are truly there. Combining video games with virtual reality technology that both places them in the 3D world and gives them the sense that they are handling a sword or other equipment takes gaming to another level.
Yet video games are just that- games and the player should be aware that it is just a fabricated environment while they are playing. Turning the game situation into something so realistic it feels like it is actually occurring could take games too far. With the amount of destruction and killing players commit in-game- which is perfectly fine as it is clearly just a game- it might be a good idea to consider just how much of a realistic experience to make killing people. Controllers that replicate the force and pressure of weaponry alongside equipment that allows the player to physically run in order to travel around the game may be better suited to simulations that prepare people in training- such as in the army or police force- for the real events they will undertake. The moral grounds and implications of this should be considered when games are being produced for virtual reality systems.
Yet despite the potential issues this presents, video games combined the concept of moving images with interactivity, making virtual reality a step further into the immersion of a different world constructed by artists. The main difference between games and films is that the protagonist of a film is set on a path directed by the story-writers. Yet while the story of a gamer's character is certainly restricted to some degree by the writers, the player is given the opportunity experience the world in their way, maneuvering around the problems the environment presents and ultimately taking the story in their choice of direction.
Interestingly put by Ramiro Lopez Dau on the LA Times, “A movie is the closest name because it’s the most familiar. But if we keep adding layers of complexity, we’ll come up with a new one.”
The uses for virtual reality are still being explored, with each technique having a different effect. While playing a movie or pre-rendered footage may allow a viewer to experience it better, calling this virtual reality may be a stretch. The term 'virtual reality' implies a fabricated world that one can feel is true and that they are actually involved in. In reality people not only can move around and interact with things and people but make choices that have an effect on the environment. The techniques used and amount of control given to the player will dictate their level of immersion in the scenario. There is a significant difference between merely witnessing a character move around a world and being that character, looking at things and figuring out problems. Placing the audience in a new environment that they can physically gaze around at, with choices to make and objects to interact with, truly creates a new reality and one that is quite different to a film.
On Motiongrapher.com, Justin Cone stated, 'This “argument” is simply a failure to understand that VR is not a new vehicle for old experiences (i.e. films) — it is a new medium entirely'.
Virtual reality is new tool for artists- such as filmmakers and game designers alike- to communicate their work and convey stories. While images on a screen in front of the viewer can be skillfully crafted and lit to create a compelling atmosphere and give them the sense that they can feel the space portrayed, virtual reality surrounds the audience with that location. By eliminating any other view of their true surroundings, the sense that they are in this new world comes to life.
Yet in order for virtual reality to be explored and discoveries about what works and what doesn't uncovered, it needs to be tested by large numbers of people. Once companies developing it release it for public purchase, the question of whether it catches on to become a popular piece of hardware is raised. Ultimately the point of virtual reality is to have people experience it and for this to occur the physical difficulties of the hardware- such as weight, audio output and controllers- must be addressed. The pricing of this is also a large consideration. Purchasing it all, especially the individual controllers on top of the headset, may be too expensive at first for the majority of consumers. As a result this may therefore take a while to catch on as only the most dedicated of fans will have the funds to put towards this. Yet as the technology is developed further, its decreasing price and updated designs will make it available to more people and the audience will expand.
Another factor that impacts on the distribution of virtual reality gear is the computing power required to run the graphics. Unless players have a high end computer to game with, it could take a while for virtual reality to become a reality for some players. In this case systems that work with existing consoles such as the Xbox and PlayStation which already populate a large amount of houses, will make this platform accessible to more gamers.
Merely scratched upon is the surface of the uses for virtual reality technology. As more artists and developers explore this medium, its capabilities and the places it can go shall be revealed to movie watchers and gamers alike.
Cone, J 2015, 'Virtual reality is not filmmaking', Motionographer, 3 August 2015.
Murphy, D 2014, 'Oculus Unveils Third-Generation Headset Prototype: Crescent Bay', PCMag, 21 September 2014.
Zeitchik, S 2015, 'With 'Henry,' a cinematic leap into world of virtual reality', Los Angeles Times, 28 July 2015.