Warren Spector was an influential videogame designer in the 1990s, having worked on exceptional franchises such as Wing Commander, Ultima and System Shock. Around the turn of the century Spector was instrumental in the creation of Thief and Deus Ex, two further franchises that continue to be recognised as key contributors to their respective genres. Now, as program director of the Denius-Sams Gaming Academy at the University of Texas at Austin, Spector remains involved in the industry but is perhaps somewhat more cautious as to where he places his bets.
Spector attended the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3), Los Angeles, last week, and saw the flood of virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) devices that are approaching. Careful not to become overwhelmed by the tidal wive of enthusiasm for the devices, Spector remains unconvinced by their positioning as videogame devices.
“I’ve been pretty consistent in my belief that VR is a fad,” states Spector in an interview with GamesIndustry.biz. “I think it’ll generate some interest among the hardcore gamers. And I see amazing possibilities in VR for social media and virtual meetings and training and crazy stuff like dealing with phobias. But for entertainment? I’m just not seeing it. I don’t think most humans want to look stupid (everyone looks stupid in a VR headset) and they don’t want to isolate themselves from the world. I mean, if someone’s sneaking up behind me with a baseball bat, I want to know about it, you know what I mean? And let’s not talk about nausea.”
However, Spector goes on to discuss his own personal experiences with VR. To anyone intimately familiar with the progress of the medium will likely judge the following statement as coming from someone who became disenfranchised by underwhelming hardware: “It’s weird, I worked on a couple of games that supported available VR headsets back in the ’90s and I was really jazzed about it. Now, I’m kind of over it.”
While modern VR is the rebirth of a technology that disappointed around 20 years ago, AR is something entirely different. A medium about to come of age, AR has seen huge strides made with the reveal of Microsoft’s HoloLens (dubbed ‘mixed reality’ by it’s creators). Spector is more enthusiastic about the potential of AR by a significant margin.
“AR, on the other hand – that seems pretty exciting. There’s some potential there. Even the low-hanging fruit of AR gaming seems compelling. Bring on the AR.”
Spector is just one of many videogame designers and executives who have recently voiced their opinion on the forward marching stride for VR. Whatever the industry opinion is at present, 2016 will be the year in which the technology finally emerges. VRFocus will be there of course, bringing you all the latest details.