Saturday 12 April 2014

Why Make Games When We Can Make Installations?

The participant signs the disclaimer and announces their safe word. They dress in the boiler suit required.

They're led into a dark room with a single metallic reclining chair in the centre under spot illumination.

As they sit down, the light above them starts to dim and their limbs are strapped down.

[Pressure sensors in the chair detect their resting weight distribution and tension monitors on each strap activate to record the strain. Mics pick up any noise from the strap buckles.]

As the light approaches nothing, a VR headset is positioned over the participant's eyes and ears.

The *vinc* of the light being switched back on is heard by the participant with the resumption of illumination, making them look up to the sound and then turn away from the bright light.

The participant looks down at their new body, not quite perfect but it seems to be responding correctly. They quickly accept it.

[Leap Motions hidden below the end of the arm rests record the precise hand movements. This will be the key point of freedom the participant can use to bond with their virtual self at the start of this simulation. A fast-track camera records the body motions and merges that skeletal track with the pressure sensor data.]

Slowly things start emerging from the darkness and into the light, floating above and around the participant. A semi-transparent fish floats through the air and brushes the participant's arm. They violently react to the light touch they feel.

[A performer has walked up to the participant with a soft foam stick and used their mobile device to indicate to the simulation where to interact, viewing the scene from a virtual camera above the chair and using the timer they set in motion by selection an interaction point to match the virtual scene.]

From here, it's up to the simulation designers and performers to define the entertainment. We can shape your vision to anything our imagination can conceive. For the next hour, we will control all that you see and hear.

VR is going to be interesting for gaming. I don't think any of the existing stereoscopic (main brand: nVidia 3D Vision) & head-tracking (main brand: NaturalPoint TrackIR) communities are in any doubt about the experiential and ludic possibilities this extra input (the tracking of the VR unit is a major new source of input, discounting any ludic changes from this new input is crazy) and immersion (finally reaching a presence effect that isn't fleeting is very cool, maybe not AR presence cool but that's a problem for a future decade once we nail down VR and where we can go with it).

VR is going to be interesting for people with game development skills who want to do other things. We've already seen this sort of thing emerging in the last decade and finding a spare in the indie scene. Games that use non-traditional output devices to manage the players and track the rules. Games that require specialist equipment to experience and are found in art installations.

Computer and video games are interactive experiences watched over by machines. The question in the title answers itself. We've already accepted video games that are installations; VR is, by the interactive requirements, primarily a game technology. The next decade of VR is going to let a lot more designers play with the boundaries of the previous four decades of games designed for fixed screens.

We're finally at the point where all this might actually work. I'll see you all in 11ms when we've got to finish the render for the pre-warping and scan-out.

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