The future of virtual reality is more than just video games. Silicon Valley views the creation of virtual worlds as the ultimate free market solution to a political problem. In a world of growing wealth inequalities, environmental disasters and political instability, why not sell everyone a device that takes them into a virtual world free from pain and suffering?
Tech billionaires don’t hesitate to share this. “Some people read it badly and react badly to it. The promise of VR is to create the world you want. It is not possible, on Earth, to give everyone everything they want. Not everyone can have Richard Branson’s private island, ”Doom co-creator and former Oculus CTO John Carmack told Joe Rogan in a 2020 interview.“ People are reacting negatively to any discussion about the economy, but it is the allocation of resources. You have to make decisions about where things are going. Economically, you can deliver much more value to many people in a virtual sense. “
Virtual reality is an attractive escape, but it is not a solution to the ills of the world. Real-world issues will linger beyond the borders of the metaverse created by companies like Epic, Valve, and Facebook. Without decisive and radical action, our planet will continue to burn, the gulf between the rich and the poor will widen and totalitarian political movements will flourish. All this while some of us are connected to a virtual world.
Worse yet, the virtual world will be owned and controlled by the companies that create it. If you want a picture of the future, imagine a set of Facebook-branded virtual reality glasses attached to an emaciated human face – forever.
According to the principle of the free market, Silicon Valley lives and dies, virtual reality is a loser. Only 1.7% of Steam users own a VR headset, according to a December 2020 hardware survey. And while it is true that headset sales have increased during the pandemic, around 30% in 2020 compared to 2019, Sales of video games in general are on the rise overall.
Valve released Half-life: Alyx in March 2020, just as lockdowns began. It was the first new Half-life game in 13 years, the continuation of a franchise that fans have been desperate to play for over a decade. It sold well for a VR title, somewhere north of 2 million copies, but fell short of the incredible number of best-selling titles in 2020 and was quickly forgotten by the mainstream press. Unless you’re a real fan of VR you probably weren’t talking Half-life in 2020.
The reasons are obvious. First, virtual reality is expensive. At the high end, Valve’s first headset, the Valve Index, costs $ 1,000. On the cheaper side, Facebook’s Oculus Quest 2 is $ 299. To play Alyx, these headsets must be connected to a high-end gaming PC. The price of these machines varies, but something that can handle the RV will cost around $ 1,000. Once the machine is built and the headphones plugged in, the player will need to carve out a dedicated physical space for themselves to play the game. Most games require a minimum of around 6.5 feet by 5 feet, but the more space you have, the better.
Virtual reality requires an incredible amount of money and free space to set up properly, and the headaches don’t end there. Right now, it reminds me of the early days of video games. It works most of the time, but I spent hours tweaking settings, tweaking controls, and reconfiguring hardware in a desperate attempt to get the best experience.
Money, space and time are no guarantees that you will enjoy VR games. Some people experience nausea and dizziness in virtual reality. Sometimes you can overcome this by adjusting the hardware properly or slowly exposing yourself to technology. Some people get their “VR legs” and adjust. Others never do. VR disease aside, technology is incredibly inaccessible to people with disabilities. The industry has made huge strides make video games accessible to a wide range of people in 2020, but virtual reality – with its bulky headsets and weird controllers – is just simply impossible for some people to use.