Oculus Rift and Project Morpheus: two virtual reality experiments currently being tested by Oculus VR and Sony. Both pieces of technology boast that, for the first time, users can play their favorite games and watch their favorite movies as if they were there. The headsets look like something out of science fiction, except they’re not. They boast HD visuals, 360 degree tracking and 3D stereoscopic sound, making you truly believe you’re not in Kansas anymore. Whilst the technology is very impressive (personally I wouldn’t mind trying one to see how it works), and the uses interesting, I am forced to wonder how healthy this new technology is.
It’s fun to play games. Human nature demands us to play on a regular basis in order to relax our minds and think about other possibilities. I used to love playing computer games when I was younger, and I still enjoy it now that I’m older. However, I have noticed that I don’t play them as much as I used to, mainly because I have a lot of other stuff going on in my life. That’s not a critique of anyone who does a lot of gaming: trust me I would still do a lot myself if I had more time. Gaming is great, but like all playtime, it can be addictive. I know firsthand how distracting modern technology is. My smart phone can run games and apps that are 20 times more powerful than my old Nintendo 64. If it wasn’t for the fact that I try and discipline my usage of these devices, I’d probably play them 24/7. So what do Oculus Rift and Project Morpheus mean for society?
The good thing about modern gaming is that it can be a lot more sociable. Instead of the solo gamer stereotype, we now have whole families and groups of friends enjoying their favorite games together. Women are playing more games than they were two decades ago, and the rise of older people enjoying the latest tech is apparent. Video game violence is more a concern of the media than average society. All of these facts are cause for celebration, surely?
Yes and no.
Whilst I believe it is wonderful that gaming has become more mobile and more accessible across the generations, I am still left with a vague “red alert” feeling in the back of my mind. In Britain, a recent survey concluded that Britons spend an average of 8 hours and 41 minutes a day on devices. That is 41 minutes more than the recommended average night’s sleep. People are texting and emailing during personal time and before bed. You only have to look around society to see how stressed and upset many people are. Is this due to the demands of modern life? Instead of simply going home and relaxing, we are now constantly available to each other through the internet. The online world has brought people closer together, but it has also driven us further apart. You do have to wonder if we have lost the ability to talk to people in the real world, or simply be alone with our thoughts.
Oculus Rift and Project Morpheus represent impressively inevitable leaps in gaming and online technology. I don’t doubt the brilliance and potential useful application of these devices. I am simply asking questions as to whether or not we are allowing technology to distance ourselves from one another.
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