I had the pleasure of using one of Sony’s new Morpheus VR headsets with their Playstation 4 not long ago and given time to think I’m left with very mixed feelings about it all.
In terms of what Sony have done with the software developers they are working with? it was the ultimate childhood video game dream come true. Having a headset placed on you at a fancy promo party by London’s Embankment to then suddenly be sitting in a dark and dingy room with someone holding a blow torch to your face and interrogating you is a very surreal experience, but of corse highly entertaining.
Its fun because in these early stages we’re able to see this as a new gimmick, an experience that its new to you much like a ride at a theme park that you’ve never been on. But what is a little concerning is when the graphics become photo realistic and VR headsets are common place in every gamers home for 24 hour use, how hard would it then become to engage back into what may be a “dull” life in comparison? Would most not prefer the world where you’re the hero or the villain without any real consequences aside from probably gaining a few pounds and becoming a recluse.
Not to mention the young people who will be raised with this technology, where they can jump in and out of worlds where in one they are asked to contribute to society through hard work, the other they can just run around shooting, stabbing, sexually assaulting and more at will. I work with young people and I already find it hard to get them to engage in things long enough to actually learn something and thats just when I’m competing with a smart phone. How hard might it be when almost total escapism is a headset away?
Don’t get me wrong, I love the idea of VR headsets and of corse I walked away from Sony’s event messaging all of my friends stating that I’m getting one as soon as it comes out. But I’m currently very aware of my addictive traits and would set limits to my gaming use in the future (moderation is key kids) but not all have the same self awareness or the ability to control themselves. For example an Alcoholic can’t control their addiction at all, therefore have to abstain from alcohol full stop in order to survive, but to learn that they are an alcoholic they tend to have hit a rock bottom in their life. What concerns me a little is the rock bottoms that might be hit while completely engulfed in a virtual world. And will there then be a VR Addictions Anon system in place like their should be for Facebook etc?
I am confident that most people using these headsets won’t be so careless, most will enjoy it much like they do the odd film or theatre experience. But we know that there will be more than a couple parents too busy wanting to feel like they are in a World Of Warcraft / Game Of Thrones kind of world than the one in which they are to monitor their child, change its nappy and such. Not to mention the mental health triggers that could cause serious panic attacks and more in horror games.
I mean, to be fair these things are already common place. We already see the overweight adults on the bus neglecting their child in order to play Candy Crush. And the Dad’s who would rather smoke weed and play Fifa or Call Of Duty than take their little ones out to the park. The warnings are already there, just the thought of giving these people complete escapism, where they can artificially change their whole image, lifestyle, surroundings, rules and more….it scares me a little. Because these people are the parents of the future generation that we will have to trust with our lives and political choices when we’re old.
I love video games, but I’m very aware that in the past (like some readers i’m sure) they were a tool of escapism. To avoid stress, boredom or displeasure in life I would just pick up a controller and zone out to a world where my actions were gaining “rewards” and praise much easier and faster than in real life. I mean, don’t even get me started on my VR headset and porn concerns! I feel like now would be a great time to start studying marriage counselling because they are going to be raking it in with POV VR Porn.
All I will say is we're all becoming far too desensitised by media as a whole (not just video games) when you can see footage of a drone on the news gunning down real innocent lives and think "that looks just like a level in a video game" it makes you wonder, what might the consequences be for a generation that could have a problem distinguishing the difference between VR and reality?
Our brains’ reward systems are being rewired these days to want easier, faster and unrealistic fixes of achievement, entertainment, arousal and such. What might we feel entitled to (rather than earn or deserve) in reality when in the alternative artificial worlds we habitat we're encouraged to be careless gun wielding homicidal car jacking maniacs that can have sexual experiences with whoever, kill at will and obtain almost anything all by sitting on our asses?
I don’t know the answer, but i’m sure we can “Just google it” one day.
Shout out to Offworld and FeministFrequency for bringing social awareness to gaming.