Corny titles aside, it’s fairly common knowledge that technology is evolving at an alarming rate. Just fifteen years ago, cellular phones were mounted in cars. There was no way to fit one in your pocket or purse, cell towers allowed 17-20 callers max at a time, and having access to the internet on a handset was just a pipe dream. Heck, even the internet was run on 28.8kbps modems in most of the homes that even had access. There was no such thing as DSL or Cable Modem service. A laptop weighed between 10 and 15 lbs, and again, internet on the go wasn’t even close to being an option.
Fast forward to today. Our TVs are a couple inches thick, our internet speeds are measured “mbps” and not “kbps”, every cell phone is internet capable, “laptops” are becoming a thing of the past (especially with devices like the iPad becoming more popular), and our video games are slowing becoming controller-less. Now, the reason I chose to jump back fifteen years, is because it was around 1995 that I first remember hearing about something called “virtual reality.” I can easily remember, as a kid, being oh so excited to finally get to play a “virtual reality” game on vacation one year. It was fantastic! I put on a helmet and a couple of gloves, and some boots, and stood in this orb of sorts. I walked around and even swung a sword at some extremely blocky skeletons. I was ecstatic and never wanted the experience to end.
Virtual Reality was going to be the gaming of the future, I just knew it. Then a couple of years passed and the entire concept quickly evaporated. No one was talking about virtual reality anymore. It was too expensive to develop, and instead the big corporations decided to put money into home consoles, as that’s where they were sure the future was. And they were right. By that time the SNES was booming, the Playstation 1 didn’t actually have a number after it yet, and CDs and DVDs were the media that was becoming more popular in home use. Everything was getting smaller. No one would want a giant VR unit in their homes, so it was time to move on. And I’ll be honest, it has been nearly ten years since the thought of Virtual Reality has even crossed my mind.
Then came today, when I received a Kinect for my XBox 360. All of these old memories and clips of the talk of Virtual Reality came flooding back to my mind. It all really got me thinking. I purchased a Wii back when it first launched and was immediately enthralled with it. A system that allowed you to use the controller to handle your sword, or fish, or shoot a slingshot. Not by button mashing, mind you, but by motion control. This was something entirely new and innovative to the video game industry as a whole — or at least I thought so at the time — and I could not wait to see how it evolved. I had forgotten (or repressed?) then the years before when I had a chance to try Virtual Reality hands on. Still, this Wii brought me plenty of fun. The only complaint I had was that it wasn’t 1 to 1 movement, but instead just a flick of the wrist could accomplish what needed to be done. After a while, I realized I could just sit down and do everything. The Wii lost some of its luster.
Then about two years later came the “Wii Motion Plus.” Ah, Nintendo were the saviors again! What an awesome innovation. Now we had true 1 to 1 movement on screen, another great step forward. Then came E3 2009. This was the year that Sony and Microsoft threw down their gauntlets and went for each others throats! Sony went first, announcing it’s Playstation Move. They had a tech demo and, I will admit, it made me kind of giddy. It was like the Wii, but even better. With the Move, you could have “real” sword battles, you could swing a baseball bat, and you could even draw on the screen with precision movement. This was it! Nothing could beat this! Me and my Sony fanboy-ism were on a pedestal. “Eat that Microsoft!” (Yes, I actually said that to my friend who was watching the press conference with me. He’s an XBox fanboy).
That’s when I got knocked down a couple of notches. Soon after, the Microsoft press conference aired and “Project Natal” was revealed. It was at that point, when the utility we now know as the Kinect was shown to the public for the first time, that I knew for sure that gaming had changed forever. While the wait for all of these peripherals has taken well over a year to actually hit shelves, it was well worth the patience.
I’ll be honest. I have not had any hands on time with the PS Move, but after only an hour with the Kinect tonight, I know that the Virtual Reality of the past has almost caught up with us again. It’s not the same as it was fifteen years ago, but that is for the better if you ask me. The Kinect and company are all in their baby stages. Microsoft has even said that there are quite a bit of programming updates to come, and that the Kinect is only at about 15-20% of its full capabilities. What the future holds is uncertain at this point, but I do believe that Motion Gaming is going to be a huge part of it.
Now, the biggest thing missing from Motion Gaming that I talked about with Virtual Reality is the fact that you’re not actually put into the game world. This was a bit of a disappointment at first, and I started wondering how companies like Microsoft could overcome the obstacle of full immersion in their games. Then it hit me. I’ve been pretty much ignoring a newer invention up to this point. In fact, I’m still not fully sold on the technology. With some fine tweaking, though, it could put the icing on the Motion Gaming cake. That invention is the 3D Television. This is full speculation and high hoping on my part, but with the rising popularity in 3D technology and Motion Gaming alike, I truly believe that in about five years or so, we could finally see the first truly “Virtual Reality World.” We have the technology in our homes now that could allow developers to create a fully rendered world that players could go to while playing a game. As an avid MMORPG player, the thought of this has me extra excited.
Imagine that when you go to log into the next “Everquest” or “World of Warcraft” type game all you’d have to do is tell your system to log you in, then the world is brought up around you. No helmets, gloves, or boots. Your TV and console are advanced enough to put you right into the game. And while this might all sound like some wishful thinking, I truly believe that it’s something that’s not too far off. Maybe five years is cutting it a bit short, but we’ve got the technology now that is capable of setting us on the right path. Motion Gaming is here to stay, and while I didn’t want to really admit it at first, I believe it is the way of the future. Gaming as we know it is slowly on its way out the door, and I look forward to what the next few years bring us.
What are your thoughts on Motion Gaming? I’m curious to hear what everyone has to say!