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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Wednesday, May 29, 2024

The Art of Games: Virtual reality may be the future but struggles in the present

Virtual reality, or VR for short, is one of the most incredible things I have ever experienced. By simply putting on a goofy-looking headset, you are transported into a virtual world. While other video games are immersive, none make you feel as if you are physically there. But with virtual reality, that changes.

As far as you can tell, when you are wearing a virtual reality headset, you are truly in a different place. However, VR as it stands right now is priced beyond the reach of all but the most hardcore enthusiasts and wealthy gamers. Out of the three main players, the HTC Vive is $499, the Oculus Rift is $399 and the Playstation VR is $299, with all of these options requiring a separate system to run. Alongside the lofty prices, there is a dearth of content for virtual reality, further discouraging purchasing.

The few experiences that virtual reality has, however, are often incredible. One such example is the game "Budget Cuts" (2018). While only the demo has been released to the public so far, it showcases the promise of virtual reality.

Interacting with the world feels intuitive. Even basic environmental puzzles are enjoyable due to the joy of interacting with a believable world. Indeed, "Budget Cuts" exemplifies the benefits that virtual reality holds over other games. Simple enemies become terrifying when they appear life-size and in the same room as you. Using weapons becomes a challenge when you have to physically aim them yourself, with hands trembling from adrenaline.

But the most remarkable aspect of "Budget Cuts" is how it makes the world feel so believable. Simple, sharp graphics make the game run well and look convincing in virtual reality. One time, it was so convincing that I hit my head on the floor trying to peer through a ceiling tile in the game.

On the other hand, "Fallout 4 VR" (2017), while still an enjoyable game, exhibits the challenges of bringing a non-VR game to virtual reality. In contrast to the simple textures of "Budget Cuts," the textures of "Fallout 4 VR" are far more busy. This results in both more blurriness and decreased performance in the game. 

The frequent and lengthy loading screens in the original "Fallout 4" (2015) are also a problem in virtual reality. Although bearable on a TV, these loads are far more annoying when you cannot distract yourself. Along with the expense of porting a game to virtual reality, the problems "Fallout 4 VR" faces point to why few games arrive on virtual reality.

Although virtual reality has its fun and annoyances, ultimately, its biggest problem is price. The small library could be forgiven if it were not so expensive to buy a headset. And this unfortunately results in a downward spiral. If no one has virtual reality, then no one will make games for it. In spite of the incredible experience, virtual reality's price is too high and the library too small to recommend to all but the most enthusiastic gamers.