Virtual Reality headsets look set to introduce previously unimagined levels of immersion to the games we play. But as a lot of games involve things we’d prefer not to deal with in real life - such as extreme violence, murder and death - could VR sometimes be too intense for consumers? Some developers seem to think so.
Speaking at Paris Games Week, Piers Jackson, whose company Guerilla Games is developing first-person multiplayer shooter Rigs for the PlayStation VR, said: “We made some core decisions early on that we weren't going to kill people. Not having to confront death -- that was something we deliberately [chose]. You don't die in RIGS, you eject. It's a sports game, so it makes sense. You wouldn't want a Formula 1 driver to die over and over again in a race."
Developers are finding that VR is making even the most cartoonish, unrealistic type of violence found in games such as Team Fortress 2 seem overly real, if only on a subconscious level. It turns out that immersion on this scale isn’t always a good thing for some gamers. "It's more intense, you can look away from it but you can't escape it. You will feel it, like everything in VR, you will feel everything much more intensely," said Jackson.
With the birth of every new medium comes increased ‘intensity’ levels of violence, and developers need to know what people’s limits are when it comes to virtual reality. "We're still writing the syntax of VR,” said Dave Ranyard, director of Sony London Studios. "In Shakespeare plays they used to use red handkerchiefs to show blood. As a new medium comes along, it always gets more intense. With a lot of games and movies you have to fall in love with the character, and worry about them. But in VR, it's you. There's a subconscious level that you are at threat, and that's a fundamental shift."
Despite these concerns, it seems one of the most popular reasons for consumers to buy a VR headset is to play dark, violent and scary games on it. Companies are obviously taking note of this, as Sony announced that its horror franchise Until Dawn would come to PlayStation VR alongside a new roller-coaster title called Rush of Blood, designed to terrify gamers. "As you'd expect [it is] a fairly violent, gory game," said Simon Harris from Supermassive Games, who are developing Rush of Blood. "But we're experimenting with what is acceptable and where we go with that."
Most people love being scared, but could virtual reality take it just that little bit too far? Maybe for some people, especially those who can’t play games like Amnesia and Outlast without almost passing out from fright. Personally, I can’t wait to see how scary virtual reality can be.
Check out the PlayStation VR showcase, which includes clips from Rush of Blood, in the video below.