Virtual reality gaming is one of the most innovative and exciting developments in the gaming industry. It offers an immersive experience that transports players to different worlds and scenarios. Not only that, but it gets us gamers out of our seats!
VR gaming has come a long way since its inception, and it has gone through many changes and challenges. In this article, we will take a look at the history of VR gaming, from its early beginnings to the present day, and explore how it has revolutionized the gaming industry.
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How old is VR gaming? (1980s-1990’s)
The idea of virtual reality has been around for a long time, and it has been explored in various forms of media, such as literature, film, and art. However, it was not until the late 1980s that the first attempts were made to create affordable and accessible VR technology for consumers. One of the pioneers of VR technology was Jaron Lanier, who coined the term “virtual reality” and founded VPL Research, a company that developed VR products such as gloves, goggles, and software.
In 1991, Virtuality, the first VR arcade machine, was introduced to the public. It allowed players to wear a helmet and use a joystick to interact with a 3D environment. Here are some of the specs for the first system.
- Main computer: Commodore Amiga 3000 with 4MB of fast RAM and CD-ROM
- Graphics accelerators: Two Texas Instruments TMS34020 GSP chips with TMS34082 co-processor
- Graphics performance: 40 Mflops and 30,000 polygons/s at 20FPS
- Headset screens: Two Panasonic LCD screens with a resolution of 372×250
- Headset design: Screens mounted on sides and reflected by mirrors into lenses
However, Virtuality was not very successful, as it was expensive, bulky, and prone to technical issues. It also suffered from low-quality graphics and limited interactivity. Despite these drawbacks, Virtuality was an important milestone in the history of VR gaming, as it showed the potential of VR technology and inspired future developments.
in 1995 Nintendo took a crack at VR and released the Virtual Boy, a 3D video game console. The device had the following specs:
- A red monochrome display with a resolution of 384 x 224 pixels
- A 32-bit RISC processor with 1 MB of DRAM
- A stereo headphone jack and a controller with two D-pads
- A library of 22 games, mostly ports of existing titles
The Virtual Boy was a commercial failure for several reasons:
- It was expensive, costing $180 at launch (around 360 dollars today)
- It was uncomfortable to use, requiring the user to place their head on a table-mounted stand
- It caused eye strain, headaches and nausea due to the flickering red display and lack of depth perception
- It had poor marketing, being advertised as a portable device despite needing a power adapter
- It had limited software support, as developers were reluctant to create games for the unpopular platform
The Rise of VR Gaming (2010’s)
In recent years, VR gaming has become more popular and accessible to consumers, thanks to the advancements in technology and the emergence of new platforms and devices. Some of the most notable examples of VR gaming devices in the 2010’s were the Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, PlayStation VR, Samsung Gear VR, and Google Cardboard. These devices allow players to use headsets and controllers to experience high-quality graphics and sound in a 360-degree environment. The majority of the these devices are powered by a PC, console or smart phone.
These games demonstrate the diversity and creativity of VR gaming genres and mechanics. VR gaming has also been shown to have physical benefits for players. It can be used to promote physical fitness and wellness by encouraging players to move around and be active. For example, games such as Beat Saber and BoxVR require players to use their arms to perform rhythmic movements in sync with music. VR gaming can also help players cope with stress, anxiety, and phobias by providing them with relaxing or therapeutic environments.
But still, VR saw relatively low adoption by consumers, due to the price, expensive and sometimes confusing set up required.
Current state of VR gaming (2020-2024)
The release of the Oculus Quest 2 in 2020 has been a significant milestone in the VR gaming industry. The Quest 2 is a standalone VR headset that does not require a PC or console to operate. It has been well-received by the gaming and casual community and has sold 18 million units since its launch. The Quest 2’s success can be attributed to its affordability, ease of use, portability and a covid-19 lockdown probably didn’t hurt. The standalone VR gaming experience has become increasingly popular due to its accessibility and convenience.
The Oculus Quest 3 that came out in 2023 has a depth sensor. This allows users to have mixed reality experiences, which will enable dynamic occlusion in mixed reality. Dynamic occlusion will make mixed reality on Quest 3 look more natural by allowing virtual objects to appear behind real-world objects. The new Depth API gives developers a per-frame coarse depth map generated by the headset from its point of view. For combat games like Thrill of the fight or broken edge, this made XR gaming a safer activity without the worry of punching a wall or TV.
The Quest 3 is also significantly more powerful. We are now seeing stand along VR titles like Asgards Wrath 2 and Assassins Creed Nexus come straight to the Quest library, rather than PCVR.
PCVR still remaining popular for sim races and VR enthusiasts that want to get the best performance. Bigscreen Beyond makes custom VR headsets that fit the users face and recently there the UEVR mod which makes unreal engine flat screen games playable in VR has brought attention back to PCVR gaming.
The Future of VR Gaming (2024+)
The future of VR gaming is bright and promising. The market for VR gaming is projected to grow rapidly in the coming years, as more consumers adopt VR technology and more developers create innovative and immersive VR games. With the improvements in technology, such as wireless headsets, haptic feedback, eye tracking, mixed reality and motion capture, VR gaming is expected to become even more realistic and interactive.
The upcoming enterprise headsets like the Apple Vision Pro and Samsung’s new VR headset, while not intended for gaming, will likely influence future and more affordable devices for consumers.
We are also seeing a rise AR glasses which have the benefit of being incredibly small and light in weight. As these devices get more powerful they may be able to provide gaming experiences for those on the go.
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