Image by Flickr user Sergey Galyonkin (CC)

The Oculus Rift: Gimmick or Game-changer?

Image by Flickr user Sergey Galyonkin (CC)
Image by Flickr user Sergey Galyonkin (CC)

As far as game peripherals go, the Oculus Rift is kind of cool but still kind of out there. Last week, Oculus VR announced that the virtual reality headset is going to start its run as an actual consumer product early next year. With E3 a month away, this device is sure to garner plenty of attention at the event. In my house, talk of obtaining an Oculus Rift is, well…happening, but not in a serious way. As cool as the device sounds, there’s nothing that make it a “must buy,” not for us anyway. Because the last time we bought into something gimmicky that was game-related, we picked up a 3D TV and couple games that were 3D-compatible. You know how many times we’ve played 3D games on our 3D TV? Zero. Unless you count the initial trial in which we had to see if it actually worked. Then I guess you could say we’ve got thirty minutes of 3D gameplay under our belts. So worth the money we shelled out.

As far as gaming peripherals go, the Oculus Rift is currently about as grand as they come. I mean, what else is out that could change the way we game socially and physically? (We’re talking only peripherals here, not integrated controls, i.e. the Wiimote.) Well..I guess there could be something else, but I probably wouldn’t know, because gaming peripherals and have a sticky history. And that’s to say I don’t care for them much. This is despite there being so many cool things out there. From fantastic gaming headsets to specialized controllers to things that came make your games sound better and feel better.

Image by Flickr user Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung
Image by Flickr user Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung (CC)

When we got our Alienware Alpha, we chose to look for a mouse and keyboard. Having never had to search for them before, I was floored by the choices available. Everything was brimming with so many bells and whistles! Picking the “right” devices was excruciating. Interestingly, though we are frugal, our decision hinged mostly on functionality over price. (When it comes to gaming, I’m usually of the mindset to spend money on the games not the things that may make the gaming experience better). So when it comes to the Oculus Rift, the question is: is its function worth the cost? (Whatever that may be, and we’re guessing “not cheap.”)

I’m willing to bet that some of us who grew up with “virtual reality'” being a much touted thing since the days of Johnny Mnemonic, look upon the Oculus Rift with a mix of excitement and disdain. It’s a device we’ve been promised for decades, and one that, when the experience has made it to market, had been truly disappointing. But the idea of gaming in a 3D environment is still pretty darn cool. Although I fear any associated motion sickness that may come from the event (an issue for many, and one which Oculus Rift VR has reportedly tackled), I would really enjoy spending a little time with, say, DOOM, all up close and personal. I’d like to think that the experience would help me relive that time when I actually enjoyed first-person shooters, though the device will surely be capable of transporting us beyond guns for the sake of guns. Though, perhaps my very first question should be, will the consumer device be comfortable for folks who wear glasses? If not, then that’s a fairly massive dealbreaker. I guess it’s a case of “wait and see.”

As we’re on the verge of the Oculus Rift becoming a real, store-bound device, what are your current thoughts on it? Is it bound to be just another gimmicky gaming thing, or could it truly change the way we game?

7 thoughts on “The Oculus Rift: Gimmick or Game-changer?”

  1. Personally i can’t say i’m too excited for the oculus rift. it’s a cool bit of tech don’t get me wrong, i’d love to play around on it, but i can’t see myself using it for more than an hour or two max.

    1. Yeah, it would certainly be fun to try, but it sure doesn’t seem like a long-term gaming investment. It’ll be very interesting to see what happens once it’s actually released.

  2. It’s funny because, I used to be so excited about virtual reality. I hoped for years that it would become a real thing in my lifetime, and at this point, it looks like it will. And yet, I’m no longer interested. Nowadays, I just want to play a game that’s fun, and I no longer care about a completely new experience. I kind of have doubts this will end up becoming super popular. I’m sure it will do better than Nintendo Virtual Boy, but it’s kind of like how I originally loved the Wii’s motion controls, but once it was no longer new, I wanted my old, traditional controllers back.

    I look forward to seeing what happens with this new device, though.

    1. Yeah, there really was a time when VR was truly new and exciting. The Virtual Boy was a neat attempt, but the technology just wasn’t where it needed to be then. The Oculus Rift’s success (or not) will really come down to what people want out of their gaming experiences. Like you, right now I’m about keeping it simple — a game, console, TV,and controller are all I need to play. Anything else just hampers the fun. Maybe that’ll change once the OR goes on sale, but I feel like I’ll have more important things on which to spend my money. (Of course, there are *always* more important things, but still.)

  3. I bought an Oculus Rift Dev Kit 2 a few months back. Short version: I’ve been really impressed, as has everyone I’ve shared it with. Given the right experience, I could easily see myself spending a lot of time using it. The 3D aspect is nice, but it’s the head tracking that really immerses you in the experience.

    Thing is, I don’t really see it as a gaming device, not in the usual sense. In the same way that people tend to think of 3D as an “enhancement” to traditional films & television, they think of VR as a “better way to play games.” But VR doesn’t really enhance the experience so much as it changes it, and in surprising ways. Playing your favorite game on an Oculus Rift might not be nearly as fun as playing an experience designed specifically for VR.

    That poses some challenges for mass market adoption. It’s one thing if you can sell the device based on the promise of enhancing content people have already purchased (and I’m sure they’ll try); having to buy new device-specific content isn’t nearly as appealing. I can’t say for sure, but I imagine designers will have a hard time making games that suit traditional controls/displays and VR equally well.

    But honestly, it’s loads of fun and you should absolutely try one. :)

    1. I absolutely hope I get the chance to try one out, because reading and watching videos about a device like this (which is all I can do) can hardly encompassed the experience of actually using one.

      I see your point there about marketing the device to the general populace. It’s one thing to pass off the OR as just another gaming peripheral, but it’s another to ask people to invest in a whole new system — VR headset + VR games. (I’m thinking of how things went with the Kinect and Kinect-specific games…not so good there.) Plus, as you say, there’s the whole infrastructure behind developing VR games, which, yeah, can’t be a cakewalk. It’s making me think of any one of a thousand “early adoption” scenarios where there brave few carve out a path of least resistance for the rest of us. I’m not saying that the OR is destined for the same fate as, say, the Ouya, but it’ll have to have something else going for it besides the “cool” factor.

      It’d be nice to see something like the OR become commonplace in gaming, and maybe someday every console will automatically come with a VR headset, but those days still seem pretty futuristic at this point.

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