Virtual reality (VR) has become the latest buzzword in the gaming sphere. While the concept has been talked about for a couple of decades, there has been limited practical utility of the technology within the gaming sphere. Some even argue that it's nothing more than a vapourware, similar to Apple's AirPower or Infinium Labs' Phantom gaming console.
However, things are about to, or rather, have changed. There have been massive technological improvements in VR headsets such as Oculus Rift and HTC Vive, and they are no longer reliant on external hardware and peripherals to function. And the best part is, there have been many games released to take advantage of this technology.
A pair of Windows Mixed Reality controllers. Image courtesy of Marco Verch, Creative Commons 2.0
What is VR gaming?
VR gaming is essentially playing games inside a simulated three-dimensional artificial environment. The games are designed to enable players to view, explore and interact with elements inside the realistically rendered environment. The superimposition of the artificial environment is achieved using devices such as VR headsets or wrap-around screens. There are also VR games which are hosted inside specially-designed VR rooms, and players are equipped with additional peripherals (such as treadmill floor and vibrations), haptic devices (like data gloves or suits) and sensory components (such as music and scents).
The human brain can be ‘fooled' into accepting this new virtual reality. When that happens, the level of immersion goes absolutely beyond the roof. Players will literally feel the sense of wonder exploring an alien landscape, the terror of armed combat, or the agony of defeat after a long campaign.
To put it simply, VR takes gaming into a whole new mind-blowing level.
Difference between VR Gaming and Augmented Reality Gaming
VR gaming should not be conflated with augmented reality (AR) gaming. While VR gaming requires headsets or specialised rooms to impose artificial environments, AR merely ‘augments' existing environments by creating a field of play using audio and visual projections. AR games are usually played on tablets, smartphones and portable consoles.
Top VR computer games of 2019
Now that VR technology has finally become mainstream, perhaps the time has come to finally get a VR headset and try a few of the games out. But which one, you say? We'll let you choose from one of the three best VR computer games of the year.
ZeniMax Media took its subsidiary Bethesda Game Studios' best-selling game, Skyrim, modified it, and voila! You have arguably the best VR computer game today. The game is multiplatform, so it is compatible with Oculus Rift, Windows Mixed Reality, HTC Vive, and PlayStation VR. It might take a little time to get used to the external sensors, but once you do, the game is mind-blowing. Even if you are already familiar with the original non-VR version, this adaptation will still sweep you off your feet.
Marvel Powers Unite VR
This is the era of Marvel and superheroes, so if you've always dreamed about being a superhero, this is the game for you. Using Oculus Rift, you can virtually become The Hulk, Captain Marvel, Deadpool or even Rocket Racoon, and experience first-hand how it feels like to be an all-powerful God-like being. Go on adventures, fight against aliens or move with the grace of a drunk Chihuahua – it's all there for the taking.
Available exclusively via Windows Mixed Reality, HTC Live and Oculus Rift, Beat Saber is a VR rhythm game that is immersive, addictive and thrilling. On top of that, it also offers great cardio exercise. The concept is simple. Players use light sabers to slash approaching blocks which are rhythmically organised based on the melody of the background music. It's fun for players of all ages – especially for families playing on a big screen in the living room.