VR: Amazing Games, But Facing an Uphill Battle

I played some fantastic virtual reality games at BitSummit, for all three major headsets: the Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, and PlayStation VR. There are, however, some significant obstacles in the way if VR becoming a mainstream success, and I'm not just talking about the cost.

Cables

Got damn, the cables. During my play of two different Vive games, I required an assistant who I would dub "the cable guy." Except neither of my cable guys were hilarious like the timeless films of Jim Carrey. My cable guy carried the thick, kinda heavy (as far as cables go) cords that connected the Vive to the TV or computer or whatever it was plugged into and yeeaah I am just now realizing I don't know what was on the other end of that cable. It could have been shoved into a bag of chips and I would have like no idea. Imagine if VR were powered by chips. Well I mean I guess it is, in part, because of computer chips, but I was referring to the potato and sometimes corn varieties of wow I am off topic. K.

Point is, without my cable guy, I may have fallen on my ass half a dozen different times. I've been told there's a backpack accessory meant to keep your cables all in a group behind you, but that just adds to…

Other Crap That Isn't Cables

Good gravy.

Space

This will be an issue in Asia, where houses are small, and with lower income gamers, who tend to logically have smaller living spaces. As I looked at the area roped off for the Cosmic Trip demo, I realized there's no way I'd be able to play this in my living room, unless I removed the coffee table; and even then, I'd be in danger of bumping into a wall, a couch, or even worse, the PC that would be running the game. 

Buying a headset is expensive enough to begin with, but if I also have to buy a new PC every time my ass falls and breaks one? Now we're talking bankruptcy. 

Maintenance

Playing a game on VR is a hell of a lot of work. With most games, you simply click the icon and run it, or inset a disc, open a phone app or whatever. You're gaming in seconds. Not so much with VR.

In addition to the above, you're doing headset adjustments that have to fit extremely precise specifications. Mess up by a millimeter and you'll have cloudy spots and visual discomfort. But maladjustment isn't the only thing that can block your view…

Sweat

Nineties super group Big Mountain once said, "Girl I wanna make you sweat. Sweat till you can't sweat no more." I felt like sometimes, my VR headsets were saying this to me. We'll ignore the rapey next line of thing song, which is, "And if you cry, I'm gonna push it some mo-o-ore," because this article is about VR, not about the fact that my parents were super restrictive of musical lyrics that implied sex in any way, yet came from the generation that gave us Afternoon Delight. I had such a sheltered upbringing that I didn't know Life in the Fast Lane was about coke dealers until I was like 32. 

The hell was I talking about? Oh yeah, sweating. Maybe it was the hot room, but my face was guaranteed to get sweaty any time a VR headset touched it. Not every gamer will be wiping down the headset after each use the way show floor workers were, but they'll at least need to wipe off the eye pieces if they want a clear view of what's going on. Despite each VR game having someone dutifully clean the headset after each user finished a demo, I twice had to take off a headset and point to a spot that still had vision-obstructing facegunk on it. 

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At least if a controller is covered in pizza grease and cum, you don't have to look at it and the buttons will still probably work. You can't say the same for blurred vision in a VR game, however. That breaks the whole game.

Hassle

This is more of a summation of "all of the above." After the already high cost of entry and less common  but still significant issues such as headaches or motion sickness, having to also deal with clearing out enough space, constant checks of headset placement, face heat, and tripping over cables (unless you buy an extra backpack) adds up to a stress package that seems uncharacteristic of other entertainment trends that actually catch fire. 

This Isn't Another Point, I Just Wanted to Let You Know The Article Is Over Now

Virtual reality has added another dimension to gaming (heh), but if it's going to be the "next big thing" some expect it to be, it's got to minimize the stress load. You don't have to copy phone gaming or console gaming note for note to take off, but there are lessons about the importance of convenience to be found there. The figurative and literal baggage of VR may hold it back from its potential.