VR vs. The Other Side Of The Fence

The VRFocus crew is a busy one – no really, we are horrendously busy considering we are essentially a relatively small team. As a result it is difficult sometimes to take the time to simply exist in the virtual reality (VR) space. There are occasions however where we do get a chance to take in the mood and interact where possible, joining in with the grander discussion on just what is going on.

I’m also well known amongst the team for having a sleep cycle that would give doctors heart pulpitations. So it was very early in the morning last Tuesday when I was scrolling through the threads on /r/Oculus trying to take my mind off of other things when I spotted one thread that asked a question I know many fans of VR have asked in a number of different ways: Why did so many people, gamers specifically, seem “anti VR”?

The user linked to another thread for an example, where VR was being given a bit of a kicking, and it had left the writer a bit confused. They could understand poeple not liking it but couldn’t square it with that which they knew about VR. Why would anyone have an issue with something that opens the door to new things and new ways to play? Were we surprised by such a reaction?

I began my reply in the only way I felt I could: “Honestly, I’m not really surprised, no.”

99% of people in /r/Oculus are going to be positive about VR overall but we’ve all come across people who have been out for VR’s blood like it had somehow insulted their parenthood, or they’d caught it in bed with their wife or something. I’m sure a few of us could name websites and publications that have, down the months, taken a confusingly negative stance on the whole thing as well.

Since starting with VRFocus I’ve always found those people who are ‘anti VR’, as it was put, tend to be an odd mix. There are those who have the sense that VR is something of an ‘add-on’, and due to disappointment from previous ‘add-ons’ are not willing to accept it. Like VR is a Super Scope, or a Kinect or a 32X or something similar.

Cost is a big one, naturally. Though I’ve found people are often misinformed and don’t realise that the cost of VR has dramatically decreased, specifically over the last year. There’s also the envy factor, those who resent not having it and/or the cost of having it. We see it a bit when games come out on different VR platforms too, the ‘I can’t have it so I don’t see why anyone else can’ mindset.

One I seem to be mentioning more and more is the grouping who refuse to get into VR because fiction did or does it better. The sense that as VR doesn’t meet a ficitional ideal seen in cinema or film it isn’t worth the time/attention of the person. Ostensively this is the “call me back when it’s like the Hololdeck” group.  This one in particular is somewhat unfair since you’re asking a relatively new technology (in it’s current guise) to meet the limits of human imagination. There’s nothing you can do here with this argument. Although those people are going to mightily disappointed to find out we as a race have not yet developed forcefields or matter transportation and replication needed to match Star Trek‘s vaunted technology. (Which only goes to prove a) I know far too much about Star Trek and b) people don’t neccessarily know enough about what they’re talking about with VR.) Personally I’m still waiting for that version of WipEout that featured during the film Hackers, but I’ve not folded my arms in a huff and refused to play any other videogames until I’m given it. That’s silly.

Let’s be clear, not liking VR isn’t a wrong opinion – it’s just an opinion. And opinions, particularly on social media, are not something the Internet is given to being particularly mature about. People can have very genuine reasons for not liking anything. You really can’t escape VR at the moment either, so if you’re inclined to not like it for reasons fair or not, having it be absolutely everywhere isn’t going to change your stance. It’s up to VR to change the minds of those who are receptive to doing so. Some of the above can be rectified easily. Other aspects will take more time and some of it is subjective and more complex. But one thing that is true is that sadly a negative story tends to get more eyeballs, and more people dogpiling on it than a positive one. Which is why threads down on VR tend to be busier than those high on VR. Which for VR is a great shame, because there is so much good going on with it at the moment that deserves to be supported verbally and financially. To be celebrated as vital steps forward towards something much bigger.

Obviously i’m going to be positive about VR here, I freely recognise that as working for a website dedicated to VR news I’m probably going to have a more positive outlook. That’s not to say I’m blind to some of the issues it has. (One option for today’s column would’ve seen me totally blister some uses of VR I’m seeing.) But a lot of that positivity is probably due to getting to see perhaps a more wide-ranging use of the technology than other people do. As I’ve said before, that excites me far more than its use in the videogame industry. I’ve legitimately lost count of the people who have said VR doesn’t mean anything until it is being integrated in our daily lives, until it is being used in health or education or… all those things that, errr… it’s already being used in.

Washington Leadership AcademyEven if the result is apparently students gaping like they are trying to catch flies in their mouths…

There are people who don’t like VR because they just don’t like it. And that’s okay. There are people who don’t like VR because they don’t know enough about it. And that will change over time as they learn. There are people who don’t like VR because it is unobtainable for them and that will also change over time. There are people who don’t like VR (and AR) because nyahh, it’s a box on ya face and it looks silly. Chortle chortle. VR throughout needs time.

Time heals all wounds. Time wounds all heels. Every day VR changes and every day VR gets better. Every tomorrow brings something that makes the people who have the irrational dislike of VR sound more and more out of touch with the development of the technology, of the reality of virtual reality. (Hey, that sounds like a good tagline for a website!) VR moves so fast who knows what we’ll see in a week at HTC’s event, in two weeks at Google I/O or in a month at E3?

I don’t know either.

I’ll see you in tomorrow.