VR Gaming Could Cause Death, Says Dev

By William Usher 2014-08-25 11:55:46 discussion comments
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Virtual reality gaming has been something sought after and pursued by the gaming industry for ages. We've had some good times (the Oculus Rift) and some bad times (Nintendo's Virtual Boy), but one developer believes that the worst of times is still ahead of us.

GamesIndustry.biz captured some quotes from Cloudhead Games' creative director Denny Unger that took place during the VR panel at Unite 2014 in Seattle, Washington, where Unger responded to an audience member's question about the “evils” of VR, to which Unger stated that...
“I have some pretty strong views on this," ... "The low hanging fruit of VR, to me, is horror games that purposely do jump scares. We're very close to having the first death in VR - I firmly believe that.”

"When the commercial version comes out, somebody is going to scare somebody to death - somebody with a heart condition or something like that. It is going to happen. Absolutely."

Unger actually mirrors thoughts I've been having about VR gaming since the Rift has evolved to the point where immersion in increasingly realistic games has almost come up to the point of being a near photo-realistic experience.

For instance, just imagine playing something like Silent Hills P.T. Demo with the Rift, at night... alone. If the demo was scary enough to make gamers completely freak out and have a panic attack, it's not unlikely that the next step in scares could literally cause death. In fact, Unger mentions this very thing, saying...
"I hope that all developers are taking that seriously," ... "If you haven't had the dev kit in your hands, you need to get it in your hands to understand the weight of that consequence. You really could kill somebody. You really could. We all have to be mindful of that."

Games like Outlast and Amnesia instantly come to mind; playing with VR gear in games like that could be pretty catastrophic for someone who easily scares and have anxiety issues or a heart condition.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, Utherverse CEO Brian Shuster believes that VR is the gateway to interactive dreams come true, believing that we're finally at a point where sci-fi can become a reality, and not just a playpen for horror games and shooter titles, saying...
"My late partner Ray and I first conceived of Utherverse by running through a simple thought-experiment involving Star-Trek and The Matrix. We believed that if they could, almost every person alive would like to live most of their lives in an environment like The Matrix that was under their own control (where they could join with friends and family and live out fantasies safely and with essentially unlimited wealth...) We set out the following criteria: assuming that human ingenuity is sufficiently great that people will be able to find technical solutions to all the hurdles along the way, what would be the steps that would take us from and early version of the internet (we started this in 2003) to the Holodeck? “

The Utherverse is an interconnected network for social, play and work-related gatherings for people through a virtual world web platform, also known as the VWW.

Utilizing virtual reality hardware with the Utherverse platform would almost be the equivalent of experiencing life in The Sims or Second Life on the “ground level”. Shuster believes that the software and hardware have finally caught up to the creative intentions that some designers would love to exploit in the virtual space, saying...
“We did spend the past decade getting things right, and I am now very encouraged and excited to see the emergence of the first real immersive virtual reality headsets hitting the marketpace, and with it, greater numbers and more enthusiastic people who are, indeed, moving toward the Virtual World Web platform.”

Of course, that still doesn't take anything away from developers needing to exercise caution and care when designing games based around virtual reality headsets and body-wear, as Unger's forewarning about someone being jump-scared to death is still a very real possibility.
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