New Opportunities for Oculus and VR

I love games. Playing games, making games, teaching other people how to make games, making games out of the chores and challenges that invade my daily life. A full universe of games. Now with a hearty wave of VR tech and possibilities hitting the market, 2015-16 will certainly be remembered as the years people started seeing VR games as more than a garage hacker playkit. While this alone is incredibly exciting, there’s an extra kicker here that is starting to build up momentum and has a ton of potential for VR/AR designers and developers. Finally, industries beyond gaming are also starting to look at an Oculus experience as a viable solution to their own challenges. Education, industry training, advertising, medical training, physical and mental rehabilitation, you name it. This is an amazing opportunity. Wait, what? You don’t seem as excited as I am. Let me explain why I see this as a big deal.

Whether we want to admit it or not, creating a compelling, immersive VR experience isn’t exactly second nature. Out of the box, school, garage, or however else we all get started, very few people have the technical, creative, AND organizational chops to pull together a full project from beginning to end. Don’t get me wrong, there is a LOT of great stuff from amazing shops on this site, and every title is pushing into new territory that is exciting to see. But just like every other technological revolution, there are going to be a good number of teams that will be able to create stellar screen shots, and probably a promising demo, and then sadly will flame out before that long promised epic gets fully released.

But that’s ok, while admittedly painful, here’s where it gets good again. Once other market segments get a grasp on what can be done, see how it can be applied, get some in-world time with those partial demos, they will finally GET IT, and become willing to take the risk to use VR for their training, education, or advertising experience. For years I worked to bring game mechanics to non-game environments, and for the longest time, no one wanted to “gamify” anything. “Not serious enough.” “If it’s fun, they aren’t learning.” Every day was pushing a giant rock up a long hill, Sisyphus, no matter how sure I was that I spoke the truth.

Then one day it was shown that Wii games helped rehabilitation patients happily complete all their physical therapy exercises. We discovered that game-like activities kept a student’s attention much longer and they absorbed additional knowledge. Many more examples emerged that showed game mechanics worked beyond just games. Suddenly, everyone wanted to bring in a gamification expert. I finally got to apply game design concepts to subjects as unique as safe exercise for new mothers and babies, responsible alcohol service training, even healthy eating habits. All of these projects sharpened my game design skills and gave me full project life-cycle experience that I’ve been able to apply to other richer and more unique experiences. Believe me, if you can make something a person hates somewhat enjoyable, you are on your way to making a game someone loves.

The way I see it, the more diverse experiences we all get to create, the more we will discover and develop the techniques to create the deepest and most compelling experiences ever seen. That’s what I want to do. How about you?

Here’s a quick list of places VR experiences are turning up lately. Who do you think is working on these now? And who do you think will be hiring them in a few years?