What you are about to read has been written by Mr Biffo, the creative force behind the 90s Teletext videogames magazine Digitiser. He now runs the show at digitiser2000.com.
Virtual Reality, then. I wasn’t sold. I mean, I was there back in the day. Back when Virtuality arcade machines were our only option when it came to VR. I remember the eye-strain, the public humiliation, the way VR was never quite as good as its promise.
The Lawnmower Man has a lot to answer for, by raising expectations that the technology was unable to reward. I have still, 20 or so years later, never had a surreal erotic encounter with somebody’s disturbing molten chrome avatar.
That, I think, left a stain, a prejudice, which meant that I’ve resisted VR even as it sped towards me with the momentum and subtlety of a freight train driven by a shrieking goat.
I’ve clung to my long-held beliefs like a moist security blanket. I told myself that VR’s blindfold would put people off, that it was too unsociable a technology. That not enough regular folk would want to play games with a bucket on their sweaty heads. I told myself it was too expensive, too tech-y, that it would never sell well enough to justify all that investment, all that hype.
I would peddle this opinion at banquets and society balls the length and breadth of these isles, regaling baronesses and sea captains with my witty anecdotes about how Dactyl Nightmare gave me motion sickness.
Well. So much for that. I accept that I’m about to be proven wrong, aren’t I? And that’s fine. I can take it. Plus, I’ve been thrown a lifeline.
Everything has its tipping point. A balance between pros and cons. For a long while, everything was tipping towards the VR cons. And then Sony went and officially unveiled the PlayStation VR. Suddenly, everything changed for me. I can now afford Virtual Reality, just about.
I no longer need to take out a mortgage or hold up a stage coach. I’m not going to have to wrestle with the set-up of a PC (I’ve been a Mac boy for over a decade following PC-related events that remain too harrowing to discuss), the prospect of which was bringing me out in a cold sweat.
I already own a PS4. I don’t own the camera or Move controllers, but… I should be able experience VR for considerably less than the two grand minimum I’d be looking at if I considered the Oculus Rift or Vive. I can justify it more now. Plus, thanks to PSVR’s ‘social screen’ feature I’ll even be able to use the headset while playing a game with a friend who’s in the same room as me. Unheard of in this day and age!
PlayStation VR isn’t cheap, but next to its rivals it’s the Lidl, Aldi or Trader Joe’s of VR. I accept that some of you will be shocked by this. Why on earth would I want to accept the less powerful option? You see, ultimately I may be a gadget geek, but I’m a lazy gadget geek. I don’t want faff. And I’m a frugal geek, relatively speaking.
When I think of that two grand, I think of the holiday it could buy. I could do stuff for real, and feel sand between my toes, wind on my face, and ride some sort of foreign animal on some sort of foreign Savannah… You know: get some of your actual reality up inside me.
I don’t believe I’m alone. I think the vast majority of people who are tempted by VR will feel the way I do. Until there’s a really compelling reason to spend thousands on a device that shuts you off from the outside world, I still don’t think there’s a mass market for it.
Regular types don’t care about how good the graphics could be, or what the potential is, or whether they can have VR chats with VR Facebook friends. They just need it to be good enough and cheap enough to give it a go. They need it to be accessible. Easy.
PlayStation VR has stacked things high in the ‘pros’ pile for Sony – the financial hurdle is a major psychological barrier, far more than I think Oculus or HTC are crediting it with. Virtual Reality is, essentially, an add-on to an existing, already expensive, piece of hardware. They might consider it a whole new platform, but it isn’t. Not at that price. It’s a luxury.
So, here’s to the PlayStation VR. I’ll be getting one, and while there’ll be part of me envying those who are willing to drain their bank accounts to play Edge of Nowhere and Bullet Train on the Oculus Rift, I’ll be doing it from the other side of the world while sipping an exotic-sounding beer, and taking in the view of somewhere that actually exists.
Because come October, the PlayStation VR will be waiting for me.
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