The Arrival of Virtual Oasis
Whether you consider yourself a gamer or not, it’s hard to deny the spectacle that has become the video gaming industry. Video games are selling more than movies and music by combining immersive storytelling, impressive aesthetics and a reward system that keeps the player coming back. But the next big thing in gaming is about to change everything. Virtual reality is no longer a product of science fiction; the Matrix is coming, and you can test it out now for $300.
Our story begins with the announcement of a fundraiser hosted by Kickstarter.com. The website is a platform where people can fund a variety of creative projects they find interesting. Creators retain 100% ownership of their work and deduct a 5% fee to the funds collected if their project is successful. A project creator posts a page featuring information about the project as well as a funding goal and a deadline. If the funding goal is met, the project creator receives the investments and carries out the launch of their project; otherwise, if the goal is not met by the deadline, no funding is received. The Oculus Rift virtual reality headset was launched on Kickstarter by the 20-something year old Palmer Luckey on August 1st, 2012.
The fundraiser was a huge success and the virtual reality headset proposed by Luckey would soon become the main focus of the video game industry, and more. The Kickstarter campaign called for $250,000 and raised $1,000,000 overnight, with a final $2,437,429 pledged by investors and believers in a virtual oasis. Money talks, and with the help of the buzz garnered on social media websites, major news outlets were starting to pay attention to what once seemed like a fallacy found only in Sci-Fi fantasies.
Video games are often praised for their ability to create immersive and believable events, characters, narratives and environments. A technology that practically removes real-world senses in order to better facilitate interactive virtual reality would inevitably revolutionize the gaming industry. The project began to earn praise and support from some of the most successful names in gaming, such as Gabe Newell, the co-founder of Valve, and celebrities such as late show host Jimmy Fallon.
It was evident that the Rift would eventually be making its way into the homes of gaming consumers. It had become the “Holy Grail” of virtual reality discussion and had finally begun its journey into the electronics market. Game-play footage became a sought after commodity after the Oculus Rift had proven itself worthy to provide the virtual reality that had so often been attempted and failed. High-quality virtual reality was not only about to become refined and available, but affordable too.
The Oculus Rift became the forefront of the tech industry’s interest, no longer confined solely by its impact on video games. A high quality, affordable headset that offered more than 360 degree playability meant the introduction to virtual reality as a whole concept. The Oculus development team welcomed modifications (“mods”) and developments to improve their invention and open the door to the countless possibilities made by this new medium. Interest was found in the cultivation of virtual worlds, new methods of interacting with computers, software and people, and the possibility of revolutionizing the way we engage other media. Movies, sex, education, and even your daily office meetings will all be revolutionized and made available through your headset. Sounds crazy, but this is the future.
The Oculus Rift has become virtual reality’s “greatest hope” for providing what so many gamers could only have dreamed of in the past. It has established itself as credible technology that should be considered as a new medium boasting new possibilities, future implications and potential ramifications in the fields of psychology, communication studies and interactive arts and sciences. It has proven its worth and earned its respect, insisting on delivering quality technology for the best experience possible. The arrival of virtual reality is here, and it promises entertainment, interaction and stimulation in ways never before imagined. The Oculus Rift will no doubt become a frequent topic of discussion in exploring the social and cultural elements of digital culture. Contexts of gender, race and ethnicity, class, ability and sexuality will be reconsidered by the anonymity, accuracy and aesthetics offered by this new technology. We are witnessing a revolution not only in the framework of entertainment and gaming, but in the ways in which we utilize our senses to interact with environments and individuals, virtual or otherwise.
The Oculus Rift development kit can be pre-ordered for $300 on the Oculus VR website at www.oculusvr.com. The first game releases anticipated for the headset include Team Fortress 2 and the cult classic first person shooter, Doom.
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