Stories, Not Graphics, Are VR’s Most Immersive Feature

About Loading Human Virtual Reality Game

VR is beautiful. That’s what we notice first about this new technology—it’s visually striking, drawing us into three-dimensional worlds in a way no other medium is able to do. It’s a beauty that can be seen from all angles, and you can inspect it like a sculpture or appreciate its staging like a film.

VR’s incredible visual potential often leads us to assume that graphics are what’s most immersive. And while the way a game looks is not unimportant—in fact, it’s a large part of preventing motion sickness in players—there’s more to VR than that. Immersion goes beyond looks, and the best VR stories are proving that it’s narrative, not graphics, that makes the difference in immersion.

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Why the Best VR Games Are Designed with VR Platforms in Mind

vr game loading human virtual reality

VR is a unique medium, and its full potential has yet to be realized. We know it’s great for gaming, that it’s a powerful new exploration of film, and that it has numerous other practical and entertainment uses, but we aren’t yet sure how far we can take it. What we do know is that you can’t beat an experience developed specifically for VR with one that’s simply upgraded from a 2D platform.

That’s not to say a ported game can’t be great—many of them are, especially those that felt like a natural fit for virtual reality before the technology was feasible. But those games that are made with this technology in mind enjoy a clear advantage, as they can make full use of the potential of the platforms they’re intended for.

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Fast or Slow? The Importance of Video Game Pacing

Life is Strange Slow Pace

There’s a moment in Life is Strange that reminded me strongly of my own time as a teenager. Not the intense teen drama or the time traveling, but rather one of the spaces in between. The early morning haze, a best friend’s bed, the quiet strains of “Bright Eyes” in the air—maybe this sounds cheesy, but when I played through that scene, I had to let the whole song finish before moving on. Though I had the option to interrupt it at any time, I couldn’t bring myself to end that quiet moment prematurely—I loved it too much.

Fast-paced action may be exhilarating, but there’s something to be said for a more introspective, quiet gaming experience, too. A faster pace lets you experience the thrill of being an action movie star, while a slower pace is typically more about embodying a character or exploring a particular story. Different pacing affects the tone, with each style representing a unique take on video game storytelling.

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The Little Things: Why Small Details Make a Big Difference in VR

Loading Human Details in VR

At the start of the 2010 movie Inception, a movie about creating believable dream worlds that fool their occupants, Saito, a wealthy businessman, realizes he’s dreaming thanks to an out-of-place detail. He spots that the material his rug is made out of doesn’t match up with reality, thus breaking his immersion and revealing to him that he’s trapped within a dream.

Virtual reality can be very similar to the rules of dreams within Inception—it’s the tiny details that make or break immersion. The believability of a game world hinges on the tiny touches that developers put in to make their worlds feel lived-in. Continue reading

Is There Room for Mods in Virtual Reality?

Mods in VR

There are few communities surrounding video games that are as dedicated to innovation and creativity as the modders.

Whether they’re recreating the entirety of the Gameboy title Link’s Awakening in the game engine for The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, or simply hacking Skyrim to replace all the dragons with Macho Man Randy Savage, there’s no denying that gaming has more variety and flavor as a result of the modding community’s inventive adaptations of popular titles. Continue reading

See You in the Movies: How VR is Changing the Meaning of Cinematic Games

Exercise restraint in VR game design!

If there’s one word that describes many of my favorite games, it’s cinematic. What that means, however, can be a little nebulous. When I call Final Fantasy X cinematic, am I talking about the long, beautiful cutscenes, or the epic battles? When critics refer to the Uncharted series as cinematic games, does that mean the Indiana Jones-inspired stories, or the action sequences?

When we call a video game cinematic, we’re saying it somehow reminds us of a film. As games become more immersive and distinguish themselves as a unique art form, the exact elements that constitute a game being cinematic evolve, especially in the light of virtual reality.

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How VR is Affecting Long-Distance Relationships

Long-distance relationships in VR

While being hundreds or even thousands of miles away from someone you care about is never easy, thanks to innovations in communication technology such as Skype, Facetime, and instant messengers, people are able to keep in contact in ways that past generations could only have dreamed of.

After all, it wasn’t that long ago that the only way to keep in contact with someone on another continent was through the postal service. Continue reading