Wednesday, June 29, 2016

In your bloody face: The potential of horror on VR

Virtual reality gaming (or "VR" as the cool kids say) is pretty much upon us, and that means that perhaps as soon as a few months from now we'll be looking at an entirely new form of in-home gaming entertainment.

No, VR headsets probably aren't replacing your PS4s and Xbox Ones (and, I guess, Wii Us), at least not in the early going, but they will be offering some incredibly exciting new experiences to get into. The fun part right now is figuring out what, exactly, those new experiences are going to look like!

More specifically, that means guessing at which genres of gaming will make the biggest impact on VR in the early days. One that gets a lot of attention is racing, mostly because of a few titles that have been announced. There's kind of an inherent value to a VR racing game in that it doesn't make you feel like you have to get up and walk around. In a VR shooter, one supposes, you'll feel a strong urge to take off running, ducking and tumbling. In a racing game you can be moving 130 mph without you needing to do anything but sit there, which seems pretty ideal for VR. An article by Jalopnik touched on this same idea while providing a few examples from existing racing simulators on VR, and frankly it all looks pretty great.

Another type of entertainment that's receiving a little less buzz but may also be ideally suited to VR is casino gaming. This is not just because casino games are inherently simple (at least in terms of graphics and gameplay), but also because existing digital casinos have already made leaps and bounds in approximating realistic experiences. At Gala's live casino, players can now choose to interact with, well, "live" dealers while playing games like blackjack, roulette, or Texas hold'em. That means that instead of cards simply appearing on your screen, a human being is facing you and interacting with you, dishing out cards and controlling the game. Cup your hands around your eyes and look ahead and it's almost VR already, so it's easy to imagine this sort of game thriving once the new headsets come out.

Aside from these clear picks to thrive on VR, it also seems absolutely inevitable that horror games will make their way to the new platform, and likely in spectacular fashion. And I don't actually say this because creepy and scary games have been popular on the best consoles for some time now. It's actually because of how similar games have thrived on mobile devices.

Mobile games require intriguing design and compelling atmosphere to really excel against their endless competition, and in a way this has helped some creepy experiences rise to the top of the heap. From Simogo's Year Walk to Phosphor Game Studio's Dark Meadow: The Pact, there are actually a lot of mobile gaming experiences for which it's commonly recommended that you turn off the lights and/or put in headphones! That's meant to be a way of fully immersing yourself in the spooky atmospheres these games present, and the result can be pretty genuinely unsettling. Basically, we've seen horror games move from those with scary storylines, dark areas and sudden dangers to experiences that make you feel like you're actually in a horrifying place.

And what could be more appealing for someone developing a new VR game? The whole point of this phenomenon is to take us out of our living rooms and basements and plop us into the environments of our video games. And that's not going to be more effective anywhere than it will be in horror. This is why it's such good news that there are already some intriguing VR horror games that have been announced.

We've still got a little ways to go before VR's takeover truly begins. The headset rollout is proving slow, and it's likely we won't see a particularly large selection of games for another year or two. But when the time comes, amazing horror experiences seem like a sure thing.

-Staff Reports