What will be the Tetris/Candy Crush of VR?
I first tried the Oculus Dk2 about a year ago at an event organized by the Montreal’s meet-up MTLVR. I played a demo of the futurist racing game Radial-G. I quickly became addict to the green arrows which were giving me more speed. I was loving it. In my head I was thinking “Oh man, this Oculus Rift thing it’s insane how it tricks my brain! I’m really doin'it, I’m in it, I’m experiencing it!” I stayed until the end of the event. Once back home, I went on the Oculus website, I knew I would order one, at that point that was just a question of time. I wanted to wait for a day but I did not. So many ideas were popping up in my mind, ideas of games. And again I was thinking to myself: "Oh man, the guy that will invent the Candy Crush of the Oculus Rift will surely become a rock star".
One year passed, a lot have happened. Every single morning there is a new sdk or an open source plugin released, a new message on a forum that will solve my problem, a new partnership, a new breakthrough. The VR ecosystem is growing fast. People feeding it are highly motivated ideologically and financially as usual. They have a vision. Probably similar to what was happening at the time they were making the Internet public. Now, we have our daily news delivered by uploadvr, road to vr, vrrelated, etc, new video platforms emerged such as Vrideo and Eevo. And we have games, or rather tons of demos. There are good demos, less good ones and shitty ones. I got the dk2 a year ago. Since then, I've played a lot of demos, I weekly check Oculus Share, Wearvr, etc, curious of new releases, but, really, I feel like I still did not find THE ULTIMATE VR EXPERIENCE.
What will be the Tetris of our new favourite medium? The game you just can't stop to play at. VR needs at least one. After all, what would have been the Game Boy without Tetris? Is Netflix the Samsung Gear's Tetris? No, thank you. Minecraft, perhaps. If we don't succeed in developing such a game (from which would emerge a cultural impact), it might stand for deeper implications: or we still didn't get how to develop games for VR, or VR is not made for that kind of entertaining games. Maybe VR should be seen, as says Fove's CEO Yuka Kojima, as a communication's device.
The thing is that VR obeys to the same principle than everything else: it's in the making. Not only we are colonizing VR but VR is colonizing us in return. And only after a certain time, experimenting with VR potentialities, we will become able to navigate it. I'm saying, as a metaphor, that we have the boat, the ocean, the captain and a lot of volunteers, but we don't have the knowledge yet, we don't know how to sail those unknown seas. We need to 'go and see', we need more weird games, more users, we need more experiments, specially with analytics and sensors such as eye tracking, pulse sensor and, of course, EEG. Finally we might have to forget about the idea of reproducing the (so called) reality in VR but rather create brand new worlds, with different physics by example. We have to consider seriously the fact that VR shall not be another place for human animals to 'have fun and get drunk' but rather a cyberspace of transition, of transformative experiences. VR culture, as the continuation of the screen's culture, leads our imaginaries to get more and more technologized. How this technologized aesthetic thinking will be cyphered in the next popular VR hits?
To my mind, as far as now, seeing and hearing mass medias talking about gamification and quantification of the self more and more, I would go for games health related that would help the user to augment/archive his daily life, such as a game emoji-inspired which would help his user to keep traces of his daily activities, ideas, food, mood, do breathworks, etc. This kind of game, if well done, would have a huge potential. However, I have to acknowledge that it is still early stage and it is hard to tell what will happen.
There are so many different categories already in VR: games, serious games (and again the boundaries between gaming and serious gaming are thin), 360 video, 360 photo, games with hand gesture recognition, games with eye tracking. I remember a year ago I was sure that everybody would go for sensors, such as EEG. I was a newbie, I didn't know all the work behind such a project. But I still think that VR is not born to be an entertainment tool, but a spiritual one (ask why to your mirror neurons). Experiences from inside the headset are real experiences. The virtual here only means that the reality is digitalized, it doesn't mean it is not real. At last, VR experiences affect you, your psychology and your body, and both of them remember the experience. That is, to me, the beauty of VR and what we should work at.
A lot happened in the last two weeks (Oculus Connect2), in the last year, and a lot is coming soon. A lot of questions VR related are still in the air. Such as how will developers generate revenue if they publish for free? How ads will be integrated to games? What to do with the analytics? Etc. Maybe the next Tetris alike VR game is right around the corner. Or maybe it won't work the same way than with the Game Boy that time, because of all those different usages that VR offers (cinematic experience, gaming, serious gaming, net browsing, simulator, therapeutic tool, etc). By example, if we look at what happens with mobiles, users running many apps at the same time, mostly texting, browsing and scrolling for another video. How this multi-app running will be rendered and experienced in VR? This sounds like a real challenge.