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The Paradoxical Nature of VR Immersion. Is it Uncanny Valley or Lack of Established Tropes?

Gamingtodaynews1e - The Paradoxical Nature of VR Immersion. Is it Uncanny Valley or Lack of Established Tropes?
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To start, I'm a pretty big fan of VR gaming these days, but not the sort of evangelical one that thinks we'll be replacing traditional gaming with it. It's a fun and novel medium that does a lot of unique stuff that the industry is still feeling out how to fully utilize. That said, I see a lot of criticisms of VR software (from both VR gamers and traditional gamers) which I find really interesting. To summarize quickly, here are a few criticisms I've seen expressed with regularity:

  1. Smooth Locomotion doesn't feel like actually walking/running (i.e. we need treadmills)
  2. I can't interact with the environment (i.e. move a desk, climb a ledge, etc.)
  3. Magic weapon switching is jarring, can't drop weapon or change hands (HL:A specific)
  4. My player body representation is not right (floating hands, bad IK player body)

While that isn't an exhaustive list it does illustrate a sort of paradoxical demand for greater world fidelity as a response to the already increased world fidelity inherent to VR. As we get closer to full player representation and freedom within the game world we actually demand more from VR than we do from traditional games. What I can't quite decide is if it's due to an uncanny valley effect where we sort of reject semi-realistic depictions of things and favor more stylized interpretations until we reach a high enough level of fidelity, or if it's because the core mechanics of VR gaming haven't been around or repeated long enough to become expected tropes of the medium.

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If you wipe away your preconceptions of a normal FPS, it's sort of ridiculous that simply moving near ammunition instantly socks it all away into magazines and pouches. Jumping height is typically absurd. Weapon selection is done via mouse wheel and more often than not the amount of gear you can carry at any time is outrageous. Your aim is locked to center of your FOV. Interaction with the environment is a "press E" sort of event. Player representation is largely a pair of hands going through identical animation motions time after time. Yet while all of that clashes with reality, it does FEEL right in the traditional medium. It's efficient, and perhaps more importantly it's what we have come to expect based on decades of games utilizing these elements.

While many of us are waiting for VR developers to "get VR right" I'm kind of wondering if the solution isn't so much in development or enhancement of game mechanics as it is in the sort of standardization of VR game rules. We're seeing one such element already that I'm positive will be a hallmark of the genre akin to running over ammo to pick it up and that's the concept of "force grabbing." While some games like HL:A do find clever ways to justify this, I've found that I'm increasingly non-critical of it in terms of maintained immersion whether it's justified in game or not.

So for the VR and traditional gamers out there, what's your take on this? Do you think we are going to continually be disappointed with how far VR can realistically take us, or is it a matter of refining our expectations of the VR world to the point that we no longer find the limitations jarring?

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