I remember the heaven that was playing my Game Boy alone when I was younger.
Back in a time when the TV was the only color screen in the house, securing precious time to play console games usually meant onlookers. It meant sharing the experience with other members of the family who would give commentary, suggestions, or who might want a turn at playing for themselves.
Playing my Game Boy was different, though – that tiny pixelated screen was all my own, and I could play for hours by myself without anyone else interfering.
As virtual reality makes its widespread move into the homes of gamers, the way players interact with games will change. The act of putting on a VR headset and shutting away the rest of the world leaves gamers free to enjoy a heightened sense of intimacy within their game world, enjoying the freedom of enjoying a game that feels like it’s just for them.
There’s plenty that game developers can do to help VR gamers embrace these new opportunities, and making use of player isolation can create far more immersive and personal experiences within single-player games.
Shutting Out the World Requires More than a VR Headset
Of course, the act of abandoning the outside world for a computer game is easier for some players than for others.
Many gamers will leap at the chance to enter a virtual realm, and will happily suspend their disbelief as they do so, quickly forgetting about the world around them as they disappear into a game.
On the other hand, some players might find the experience strange at first – losing both sound and vision from the real world can mean feeling fairly exposed and embarrassed if the player isn’t able to fully forget their surroundings. Even the experience of having VR characters enter the player’s comfort zone was enough to make some journalists feel squeamish.
To help both hesitant and enthusiastic VR gamers alike to really sink into the digital worlds that they create, developers need to be sure to make the experience of playing their games as natural, comfortable, and effortless as possible.
This can include making sure that movements don’t feel strange or difficult (or look funny to outside viewers) and can also mean providing solid, engaging characters and environments that players can fall in love with.
To do their worlds justice, though, VR game developers can rely on the intimacy that comes from complete isolation to create more meaningful moments within their single-player games that touch players on a personal level.
Virtual Reality Removes the Onlookers from Single-Player Games
It’s safe to say that the experiences of watching a movie with friends and reading a book alone can be equally exciting, but require different elements to make them fun.
From a book, readers invest personally, as they alone are sucked into the narrative. In a room full of friends, there are plenty of distractions, and movies can lead to comments being traded between viewers. Similarly, single-player games are a very different experience to more social games, but even games that are meant to be played alone often end up turning into social experiences thanks to the presence of onlookers. Sure, right now people huddle around VR game demos and excitedly witness their friends’ reactions to the technology, but once the novelty wears off, gamers can enjoy the experience without an audience.
With virtual reality, gaming can be more like the personal experience of reading a book than of watching a movie with friends, inspiring the player to invest more completely in the story they’re being told. Developers are able to go deeper with storytelling because players can not only give their full attention, but they are more cut off from the outside world and are therefore in a better position to enjoy a higher level of immersion.
VR Takes Advantage of Isolation and Intimacy to Improve Single-Player Experiences
I’ve said it before: looking into the eyes of an NPC when they’re talking directly to the player is one of the most emotive things that make VR unique as a storytelling medium.
With the player behind the eyes of the camera, it’s easy for a game to deliver poignant moments of character interaction which feel particularly intimate and personal to the player.
While Loading Human is full of explosive, exciting scenes of intense action (and fire!), so much is communicated in the smaller moments. One scene, which can be seen in the game’s trailer, involves the player having a romantic candlelit dinner with Alice, their partner.
Loading Human features small moments which take advantage of the intimacy of the medium.
This is the kind of scene that probably wouldn’t work as well if the gamer has an audience. Games are often expected to move fast, to stay interesting—especially when someone else is in the room with the player, serving as a potential distraction and also someone who needs to be entertained without participating. Within the isolated environment of VR, this interaction doesn’t have that audience, and feels natural and comfortable for the player.
Thus, through the tiny moments in Loading Human – the game goes so far as to let players light the candles for their dinner themselves – it’s possible to build a far stronger connection between the player and the digital world.
VR’s ability to create intimate and emotional moments for the player comes in large part from the isolation the player feels. Leaving the world behind by putting on a VR headset is a powerful experience, and when games take advantage of this, they can help the player to become even more attached to the game than they would be otherwise.
Just like back in the day when I used to play my Game Boy alone to get a more personal experience, VR can provide gamers with a virtual world that they feel is just for them. When single-player games take advantage of this isolation, virtual reality makes for a truly unique experience that’s unlike what any other platform is able to deliver.
To leave behind the real world and enter your own personal science fiction fantasy, preorder Loading Human today.