In many ways, VR is the future of gaming. The concept has existed for decades and nowadays, VR technology is extremely advanced and provides highly immersive experiences that get closer and closer to the real thing.
Do you need to own a VR headset to play a VR game?
It depends on the game title. Some games are exclusive for certain types of VR heasets like Oculus Rift or HTC Vive, others even allow you to use an inexpensive VR headset, like for instance Google Cardboard, which you can use with your smartphone, provided it meets the right requirements.
Of course there is always the option to rent a VR headset, or visit a VR lounge or arcade, where they offer various exciting VR titles.
What types of VR headsets exist?
2.1. Tethered VR headsets
This is currently still the most immersive and high-quality way to experience a VR game. The VR headset is connected to a powerful computer by cables (HDMI or USB) and some space is needed to set up sensors to track the players’ position and movements. The player can use a variety of hand-held controllers to play the game.
There is currently only one console related (tethered) VR-setup, which is Playstation VR. It uses proprietary equipment and the headset has a processor box that allows the user to show the gameplay on an external display, like for instance a TV screen. Some PS VR games can show different perspectives on the display of the headset and the TV screen, creating a multiplayer experience involving someone wearing a VR headset playing against several other players using a normal screen.
An invention by Intel, called WiGig lets players connect their VR headsets and peripherals to a computer via wireless adapters, which means the player can move more freely without constantly having to consider the connecting cables, which improves the overall gaming experience.
2.2. Standalone VR headsets
Standalone headsets do not require an external computer or any other external gear.
All important components, like displays, processors, storage memory, sensors and batteries, are built directly into the headset, meaning that the player can move very freely, not just in their own home but pretty much anywhere they want to.
The downside of this extremely mobile VR-experience is a noticeable decrease in the quality of the game graphics and refresh rates.
Still, the future of VR gaming will certainly be wireless and big tech companies like Facebook and HTC are constantly working on improving their VR-related products.
2.3. Handheld VR headsets
These headsets are usually made from sturdy, foldable cardboard or other inexpensive materials, which makes them an affordable alternative to the other, all rather costly options we have already looked at.
They usually work with a smartphone as screen, which is inserted into a frame in the headset.
The display faces the player’s eyes, with a set of lenses in between to create depth. Most modern smartphones have built in sensors which can be used by VR apps in addition to the phone’s camera to detect motion. Of course the most recent high-end smartphones will provide the best VR experience.
This is an excellent option for those who are curious about VR but do not have the means to try the more high end devices in this category.
How to play games with a VR headset?
First, you need to set up your device. This involves different steps, depending on which headset you are using. If the proprietary software for the headset is not yet installed, you need to do so first before you can manage your device. When the installation process is finished, you can calibrate the sensors of your VR headset.
Once everything is set up, make sure that your headset is adjusted comfortably and you have enough space to move, so you aren’t distracted while playing a game.
Now it is time to check out some games!
Some apps for VR devices offer a selection of VR titles you can play directly from the app. Another way to find good VR titles is the online platform Steam. They offer Steam VR, a virtual reality platform you can install with your VR headset in order to play VR titles.
If you are using a smartphone VR headset, setup is very fast and easy. You just need to insert the smartphone into the device, adjust the lenses and choose a VR title from your app store.
When it comes to VR titles, there is virtually no limit to the imagination. Of course, playing the latest and greatest VR Games, like Half Life Alyx, is an exciting experience, but there is a lot more to explore. Various simulation programs will finally give you a chance to explore places you have never been to, try physically impossible things like flying or diving without equipment or even ride a rollercoaster while sitting comfortably in your own home.
VR-Gaming has become part of mainstream entertainment and more and more people are interested in playing VR games. While VR headsets are still on the expensive side and rather complicated to set up, the creation and development of more and more immersive and fascinating game titles and the constant improvement of hardware components means that VR gaming is becoming an increasingly attractive alternative to conventional gaming. Nowadays and in the future, VR lounges will provide an excellent opportunity to try the VR experience using the latest technology, game titles and providing the perfect space to have an immersive adventure without having to commit to buying an entire VR setup for yourself.
Gimmicks like foldable headsets for smartphone use are another fun way to get a taste of VR, but the future most certainly lies in wireless VR gaming with slim and light hardware components.