Opinion: Is Oculus Rift The Future?

by Kyle Hilliard on Aug 07, 2013 at 11:16 AM

It’s hard not to be enamored by the Oculus Rift the first time you strap the device to your head. My first experience with the virtual reality headset was with Team Fortress 2. The act of looking around the world of Team Fortress was totally engrossing. As I blindly reached out for a keyboard and mouse and started moving, the experience diminished somewhat as head movement was not required for interaction. Team Fortress, however, was not a game designed to be played with the Oculus Rift, so it does not take full advantage of its capabilities. It was a good test run, but the real excitement came when I tried something built with the Oculus Rift in mind.

I downloaded the rollercoaster demo that’s making the rounds on the Internet and excitedly sat in my office chair, growing giddy as the cart climbed the track. I looked to my left and saw the nearly 90-degree vertical drop awaiting me at the apex of the climb, and felt my chest tighten as though I were riding a real roller coaster. When the drop finally came, I gasped out loud, embarrassed that my wife had overheard me shouting with a weird mask strapped to my face. It was a strange and exhilarating experience that left my heart beating long after I removed the headset, but I’m not sure I glimpsed into the future of gaming.

The Oculus Rift is far more immersive and technologically advanced than 3D televisions, but I experienced similar feelings the first time I used 3D glasses and played Crysis 2. I was blown away, but ultimately, did not see myself wearing special glasses just to play all of my games. I only played Crysis 2 in 3D a few times after that, mostly out of a sense of obligation. I wanted to get the most out of my investment, but I wasn’t sure I was getting a better experience than if I had just played normally.

Oculus Rift has the issue of closing you off from the world entirely. You can’t see, you can’t hear (if you’re using headphones) – you can’t even check your phone. It’s engrossing, but inconvenient, and from a practical perspective, it will rarely be the way I can play games.

Playing games with the Oculus Rift is captivating, and that’s impossible to deny. During E3, one of the best experiences I had was playing an Oculus Rift game on the show floor. It does not, however, replace the ease of interaction that comes from picking up a controller and playing a game with as little effort as possible. The Oculus Rift is a solitary experience that closes you out from everything around you, isolating you in a virtual world. Also, you look pretty dumb while you’re playing it, which certainly doesn’t help sell the device to the average consumer.

I’m excited to play more with the Oculus Rift, especially after hearing Mike Futter and Dan Ryckert’s feedback with the HD Oculus Rift they tried at E3, but its impact remains to be seen. Even though I see amazing things in the Oculus Rift’s future, I don’t think it will be the future.