What You Don’t See: Unsettling Games Create Atmosphere Through Misdirection and Subtlety

Virtual Reality Demands A New Gaming Iconography

You know the goosebumps you get when you’re home at night and you hear something, somewhere in the house rattling around? You could know for a fact that it’s your cat playing with a toy, or your roommate moving furniture, or your upstairs neighbor stomping around, but there’s still a part of you that can’t help asking, “What if it isn’t?”

That feeling isn’t blatant fear, not exactly. Moments like these are more unsettling or discomforting than anything else. They come not from what we know to be true, but what we don’t know, and when games aim to capture this feeling, the stories they tell are often more powerful than those that simply try to scare the pants off us.

The difference between fear and being unsettled is subtle. So what is it that goes into making unsettling games over outright horror?

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Rocketships and Body Hacks: Exploring the Unique Features of Sci-Fi Subgenres

Exploring the unique features of sci-fi subgenres

When I think of science fiction, I think of spaceships blasting through asteroid belts, white-knuckled pilots at the helm. I think of colonization and alien diplomacy, of faster-than-light travel, of exploring the unknown with a loyal crew.

Logically, I know there’s more to the genre than that. I’ve never been a huge fan of space opera, so I tend to gravitate toward blends of sci-fi and horror, or stories with time travel, especially if they focus on the human element. Despite the genre’s associations with aliens and space, sci-fi is a pretty diverse field encompassing stories of all kinds; sci-fi subgenres range from subtle shifts in reality to entirely new universes completely unlike our own. Even the all-important spaceship is little more than a tool; the trappings and tropes of sci-fi subgenres are available for many different purposes, making science fiction a genre with incredible potential for diverse, wide-reaching stories.

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Gotta Go Fast! Speedrunning Virtual Reality Games

Speedrunning virtual reality games

Among all gaming communities, there are none quite as dedicated as the speedrunners.

Playing the same segment of a game over and over to find the quickest way to complete a challenging level, seeking out bugs and glitches to skip large portions of play, and even counting motion frames to achieve pixel-perfect maneuvers, speedrunners pride themselves on breaking games apart to finish them in as little time as possible.

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Where to Start? The Best VR Picks Based on Games You Already Love

VR picks based on games you already love

There are a lot of fantastic virtual reality games out there—so many, in fact, that it can be difficult to know which games to start with. Each gamer has their own preferences and favorites, and what one person recommends might not be the best fit for your particular tastes.

So when exploring the wild and wonderful options available in virtual reality, it makes sense to start somewhere familiar. While not all traditional games have made the leap to VR yet, often you’ll find a new title that expands or improves on a gameplay formula you know and love. Continue reading

The Spark of Humanity: Believable NPCs in VR Games

Believable NPCs in VR Games

Let’s face it—video game characters can be a little weird.

Take the Phoenix Wright series, for example. Every single character in the game is designed to stand out as an unusual, entertaining, and quirky individual. The game is built this way both to make text-heavy gameplay more enjoyable and to help the player keep each character separate in their mind.

While this kind of flamboyant character design is fine for traditional gaming, virtual reality requires a little more nuanceTo help sell an immersive experience, characters have to be believable. What’s more, considering the in-your-face nature of the virtual reality experience, there’s a danger that over-the-top characters within games can startle or disturb the player more than is intended. Continue reading

Through the Looking Glass: Gender and Empathy in VR Games

Gender and empathy in VR games

Virtual reality is an incredible tool.

There are so many practical applications for technology that can change the user’s perspective and let them see the world through a different set of eyes. Of particular interest are the opportunities afforded to storytellers by the ability to transform the player into a brand new person, and the kinds of experiences VR games can generate as players take new roles. This includes stepping into the shoes of someone of another gender.

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The Best of the Best: Finding the Perfect VR Game for You

Compelling VR storytelling using contrasting environments in video games.

We all like different games.

Some of us go nuts for action, shooters, or platformers—games that require quick problem solving and lightning-fast reflexes. Others prefer more methodical games—puzzles to be solved, relationships to be developed, and the organization of resources. And some gamers even enjoy farming simulators and other peaceful escapism. There really is something for everyone out there.

When it comes to virtual reality gaming, there are a lot of options for players to choose from—most major genres of games are represented by the growing library of titles available for VR devices, and many more are in development.

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Mass Appeal or Niche Audiences? VR Games Find Their Focus

glowing chamber in Loading Human

Virtual reality is a really hot topic for the media at the moment.

Not a day goes by that the mainstream press isn’t singing the praises of the new, emerging medium, or showing off the incredible potential of the technology. From its use as a medical aid to making learning more accessible, it seems like there’s nothing VR can’t do and no group that can’t benefit from its effects.

As wide-reaching as VR’s capabilities may be, though, when it comes to VR gaming, there’s a very specific audience that developers are attempting to woo. The audience for a virtual reality title is currently a fraction of the gamers who’d play a traditional video game, and one of the big challenges that game studios face is broadening the niche market to reach a wider gaming audience.

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Five Great VR Games for the Virtual Reality Skeptic

Loading Human is a prime example of what VR games have to offer

It’s not easy to explain the best bits of virtual reality to an unbeliever who hasn’t tried out the technology.

The exhilarating feeling of looking through a new pair of eyes or marveling at an incredible digital landscape can be a very personal experience, so while it’s possible to talk about it, words don’t always capture the essence of VR.

If you’re not yet certain about whether virtual reality is for you, there are a few games you should try out first before writing off the technology completely. Here are some fantastic VR experiences that show off the amazing possibilities that the technology has to offer:

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