Has the wow effect of virtual reality worn off?
I've been dealing with virtual reality for six years now. Does it still impress me as much as it did in the beginning?
In 2016, the first high-quality VR headsets hit the market and I was excited by the new medium. It was as if a new world of experience and storytelling had opened up.
Has the initial magic worn off? No. Virtual reality doesn't seem as overwhelming as it did the first few times I used it, and the honeymoon mood of the first few months is clearly gone. But the medium still surprises me.
After the wow effect came something else: a passionate exploration of the art form, possibilities and language of this new medium through the example of numerous games, movies and experiences. That is and remains another inexhaustible source of fascination.
A journey into the past
The idea for this column came to me while replaying the classic Resident Evil 7 VR. Thanks to a VR mod, for the first time on the PC, and in significantly higher resolution and sharper graphics than five years ago with Playstation VR.
Resident Evil 7 remains one of my most immersive virtual reality experiences ever. I've never felt so much like I was in the middle of a movie when playing a game - not as a spectator, but as the main character and protagonist.
When I recently played the title with a newer VR headset on the PC, that effect didn't happen again, at least not to the same extent. The world seemed more unreal, more flat than it did years ago. I was fascinated - and yet not as impressed as in 2017, although the visual illusion was much stronger.
Virtual reality has become part of everyday life for me
Has virtual reality worn out that much for me? It's possible.
Since 2019, I have spent much more time in VR than in previous years. Especially in 2021 and this year. The reasons for this are better, deeper and longer VR games and Meta Quest 2, which lets me jump into VR within seconds.
Plus, I play almost only VR games, so I don't have a contrast program anymore. The all-around view, 3D effect, and hand interactions in virtual reality have become second nature to me - and everything else is an old-fashioned curiosity. I no longer even have a monitor or TV large or high-resolution enough at home to display a traditional game in a visually appealing way.
The regularity of my VR consumption certainly plays a role in the fact that immersion in 3D worlds doesn't mind-blow me the way it did a few years ago. When I switch to VR today, it feels like I'm going from one room to the next. Virtual reality has become an integral part of my life. But there are other reasons as well.
Half-Life: Alyx and other jaw-dropping moments
It's possible that the graphics of mobile virtual reality play a role in my diminished sense of wonder because that's precisely what I've mostly consumed over the past few years. However great Quest 2 is, it shouldn't be taken as a benchmark for what virtual reality can do.
In 2020, the medium felt fresh and new again for a moment. I'm talking about Half-Life: Alyx and its unique mood and obsession with detail.
But there are other absolutely magical VR moments from the last three years that will stay with me for a long time and were enchanting or particularly immersive in other ways, like Maskmaker, Cosmodread, and Winds & Leaves. And then there's Until You Fall, which redefined gaming for me because it brought my body into virtual reality like no other game before it.
It is not only the technology that impresses, but also the art of using it skillfully
A look into the future: PSVR 2 and video AR
I hope that Playstation VR 2 will give me many new goosebump moments in the next three years, with large or detailed story worlds and novel interactions. Just like it did six years ago. Technically, PSVR 2 has everything it needs and takes a big leap forward.
What I'm also looking forward to is video-based augmented reality. This technology will probably become the industry standard in the next three years, creating enchantingly real mixed worlds in my own home for the first time.
As expected, the wow effect of the first generation of virtual reality has worn off. But there are new horizons for VR and AR that will reignite my passion. Fascinating, considering the technology is still in its infancy.