That video is well made and I’m grateful that you posted it (I look forward to seeing what other sorts of videos people find), but I’m going to take a moment to attack the video’s premise in the hope than I can hold back the philosophy this video seeks to spread. I’m not usually one for long philosophical rants, but this touches on some topics near to me heart and I need to vent a little. Let me describe this from two standpoints: two aspects of my own life that make this video almost an insult to me.
I play a lot of video games, and have for pretty much my entire life. The social stigma against video games (or more specifically, the type of people who play them) has always frustrated me. I’m sure most of you know the general idea. Video games are stereotypically all about violence, extremely visceral and gory, unable to discuss complex societal issues, super repetitive, etc. The people who play video games are losers who never leave their house (or their mom’s basement), don’t follow basic hygiene, are repressing unnaturally violent tendencies, have an addiction to their preferred violent games, don’t have any social skills, etc.
Of course, these aren’t true. Video games are perfectly capable of being art, and, when properly done, can convey some messages much more strongly than other forms of media because of the inherent interactivity. There’s a whole wonderful world of imaginative, thoughtful games that weave together gameplay, narrative, and themes in a cohesive way to make some great experiences. Tons of people play video games, people from all different backgrounds with interests in all different genres of games, all with their own (usually perfectly normal) motivations for doing so.
This point of view is becoming more accepted with time, but it’s been a long, hard struggle, and there’s a lot of people out there desperate to portray video games in the most hideous, negative way possible. This video is a perfect example.
VR Addict #1: 17 hours of combat a day, 100 kills, about 8-10 deaths, … I wake up, check on my rankings, and go straight to the battlefield
VR Addict #2: I haven’t left this house in… quite a few years.
VR Addict #3: I feel like I can be myself and not go to jail for it
Articulate, well dressed doctor person: My job is to provide psychological assistance in VR dependent neighborhoods. To be honest, they don’t seem to manifest any interest in being a part of society, and looking at their present conditions, I don’t think they would have a place either.
VR Addict #4: I don’t feel comfortable around people. I don’t really know what I should say or do. Game play is just simpler. There’s no people, just targets.
All VR Addicts: Completely oblivious idiots slaughtering helpless civilians without paying any attention to the world around them.
Sure, this takes place in a theoretical future where VR is more immersive and I suppose whoever is making these guys control killer robots is suppressing dialogue between players and killing those who find out. But these same sort of lines are spoken by stereotypical video game players in media set in the present, too. The parallels are clear. This is a video about people who play video games, and every single one of them is portrayed in an extremely negative way. The authors are trying really hard to scare us about people who play video games, and in the process they’re demonizing a form of entertainment that can provide so much good to the world. It’s really a shame.
A lot of my research as a graduate student now is related to virtual reality. While I don’t work on it directly, I have a lot of exposure to people and research academically exploring the applications and how to make it better. This goes way, way beyond making “five senses support, 360 degrees immersion, enhanced aim” (again, from the video) for the newest shooty bang bang game. We have people looking at simulating deformable objects for better medical simulations, real-time sound propagation for better military and rescue training, and how to realistically create shared VR environments.
That last one is important because there’s huge demand out there for remote collaboration (Microsoft does a lot of this). VR is good for making immersive games and simulations, but the real killer app in some people’s eyes (which is why why Facebook spent so much to buy Oculus) is being able to see your friends and family in front of you. Not just a flat video of someone’s head, eyes looking down to see their screen instead of the camera, but a full person, in the same virtual space as you, looking in your eyes and gesturing as they speak, just as they would in person. If we can get the tech there, the future of VR is looking really bright.
And that’s where we get back to this video. What message are the authors trying to convey? Whatever it is, it certainly inspires more fear than optimism in the future. I understand that we need to take a step back now and then and analyze the trajectory of scientific progress and ask ourselves if that is a place we really want to go, but in my mind we are far from any moral barriers in VR and games research. Walking away from this video, the authors want you to be afraid: afraid of gamers, afraid of virtual reality, afraid of the future, and afraid of technological progress. I want to entirely reject that notion. Don’t be afraid. the future is going to be wonderful, and video games and virtual reality are going to help get to that dream I know we can reach.