It’s no secret that Virtual Reality is built for gamers. From Oculus to HTC Vive to Valve’s Index headset, this immersive hardware is built primarily as an entertainment device, with high-quality audio, video, and comfort developed for a consumer environment. Controllers are built to be similar to those found among traditional game consoles and arcade cabinets. Mobile headset variants are advertised with scenes of people at play in their living rooms and basements. Pre-installed software packages offer digital storefronts for hundreds of VR games. The world of VR is a gamer’s paradise.
But why? What makes gaming culture such an obvious focal point for developing virtual reality experiences?
Simply put, proximity. The typical “hardcore gamer” spends between 21 and 28 hours a week in digital space. This is not solely a child’s habit; these avid hobbyists are just as often adults with lives and jobs and mortgages. Nor is this a primarily solo hobby. Utilizing text and voice chat systems such as Discord, Ventrilo, or Xbox Game Chat, modern gamers interact with others on a nearly-constant basis, sharing their online experience in an ever-growing community centered on a kaleidoscope of play. All of this means that game hobbyists spend more time with immersive entertainment than anyone else, and so they are a target audience for these developing technologies that are the future of immersion. In a sense, gaming culture has “been here all along” as the foundation around which virtual and augmented realities are sculpted.
As a result, this relationship is often a two-way street. VR hardware and software designed for gamers is often then iterated on with a gameplay-centric standard in mind. Perhaps more so even than our evolving business world, game hobbyists are hungry for the “next big thing.” They demand continual innovation and evolution. They thrive on digital connection and collaboration. They expect continual improvements at competitive price points, and they implicitly guide said advances towards convenience, mobility, and personal ease-of-use. Many of us know (or are) a gaming enthusiast. Like any other hobby, gaming has many passionate players; those who are as proud of their desktop computer as one might be of a rebuilt classic car or limited-edition sneaker collection. This is all to the good. Passion fuels creation and a widespread, voracious user-base both funds and drives developments that propel VR and its sister technologies forward.
So what does this mean for the future of VR in an enterprise setting? Foremost, it means using all tools at our disposal to pursue quality visual showcasing and immersive interaction for our clients. If a game development software can do more for our proposed direction than one produced by a dedicated engineering provider, then it is that software that deserves our attention and time, even if it’s a little off the beaten path. It also means benefitting from design philosophies present in game development, anywhere from imitating control schemes in the latest successful VR title to adapting level design optimizations when questioning how we think about CAD layout construction. Finally, it means adapting to the rising societal expectation of quality in regards to new technologies. As new accomplishments in the tech world are made, displayed, and become commonplace, new expectations also arise in households and communities worldwide. Like VR game developers, we must continue to grow our visual standards accordingly. Despite the insulated nature of what some call our “big and small” playing field as supply chain consultants, the consumer community’s expectations of what is new, cool, or impressive will and do eventually become our own, and it benefits us to stay well ahead of that curve.
Gaming culture has plenty to teach us. As a business of innovators, we owe it to ourselves to adapt to both new technologies and various schools of thought, and virtual reality’s strong ties to game development mean that the lessons they’ve learned can be ours as well. In learning well, we not only acquire unique strengths in our chosen industries but also attain a strong position from which we can both react to the future of VR and take part in telling its tale.
—Cam McKenzie, St. Onge Company