The way we experience PC gaming hasn't really changed. Ever. Yes, the hardware is faster. New genres are available. And the screens we look at larger, thinner, and sometimes even able to facilitate stereoscopy. Regardless of your favorite title, you sit down in front of a monitor to play it.
For those of us who dream about the future of gaming and virtual reality, this is far from ideal. Don't get us wrong, we have plenty of fun gaming today. But many of us have waited for a more immersive experience for years. More than 25 years have passed since we first saw the holodeck on Star Trek, and the Matrix came out 13 years ago. It's nice that 3D-capable displays are mainstream now, but 3D is only one component of augmented reality.
In order to get virtual reality working, the technology needs to convince your senses that they're part of the game. Your field of vision needs to change with the orientation of your head, so impeccable tracking is a must. The display's edges can't be distracting, or the suspension of disbelief is shattered. The hardware can’t be too heavy; your body needs to support it without discomfort. And it all has to work without lag, perfectly. Otherwise, you'll never believe it and we'd end up looking forward to another generation, another day.
The Oculus Rift nails it, though. Despite the early status of the unit we previewed at CES 2013, it does everything right, and I never expected that. Until now, we’ve seen nothing but incremental improvements from virtual reality technology over the years. Given the modern virtual reality headsets that stumble under high prices and lackluster experiences, I previously believed, depressingly, that good consumer-grade VR was another 10 years off, at least. Oculus’ Rift gives me a very real hope that this technology will be available to gamers everywhere in two years or so, and at a reasonable price point.
I haven’t been this excited about a piece of hardware with the potential to change gaming since 3D hardware acceleration took off. And I believe this could even be bigger.