There are a lot of reasons to like VR, and a lot of reasons not to like it. The most common thing I hear from people I ask about VR, is “Why would I want to cut myself off from the world like that? It just makes me more anti-social.” And, to be completely honest, they’re absolutely correct. Many of the applications and experiences we’ve seen so far have done just that. They’ve removed us from our own worlds even more, to further immerse us in fantastical locations and vistas. It’s a great feeling, but is that really the direction that we want virtual reality usage to take?
That’s why I think Star Trek: Bridge Crew is such an important addition to the virtual reality lineup. It’s a video game, a simulation if you will, that really shakes things up a bit for how we, the consumer, use virtual reality. I recently had the chance to spend around twenty or so minutes in Bridge Crew with a group of three others, where we chatted, and worked together to complete a mission objective from the bridge of the U.S.S. Aegis, a new ship in the Starfleet Federation.
Virtual reality can be a shallow field for good social interaction. Sure, you have a few multiplayer oriented games out there, and even social event applications like AltSpaceVR, but there isn’t really anything out there that truly bridges the gap between social interaction and video games. That’s where Bridge Crew comes into play, and it comes in with a really strong argument.
The problem is, a lot of people envision virtual reality as a solo action. You sit in your office with your HMD (head-mounted display) on, and you ignore everyone around you. But Bridge Crew aims to alleviate this issue by making the entire experience a huge social environment. Because that’s exactly what this is. It’s a social environment built into a well-thought out video game.
During the demo, four of us were equipped with Oculus Rifts and Touch, and thrown into our respective roles. One of the developers worked as the ship’s Captain, I took on the Tactical Officer’s panel, and the other two people checking out the game at the same time took on Engineering and the Helm controls. Together we took over the bridge of the U.S.S Aegis, a brand new ship in the Starfleet’s lineup. Using the Rift’s built in headphones and mics, we were able to easily communicate with each other, and issue and receive commands from the Captain. This made the experience feel deeper, which was only further deepened when I realized that everyone in the group could see whatever hand movements I made.
I believe this is a huge part of why so many people struggle to see the viability of virtual reality as a mainstream item. Most experiences themselves feel disconnected, like they cut you off from the world in even more ways than just gaming regularly on a 2D screen. But the truth of the matter is, games like Star Trek: Bridge Crew exist, and I think this is what is really going to help push virtual reality to an all new level.
Of course, time will only tell how this one application affects the future of virtual reality, and I don’t believe by any means that it’s going to suddenly become overly popular when Bridge Crew releases later this year. But I do believe that games and applications like Bridge Crew, which aim to bridge that gap between social interaction and media, are really going to help shape the future of virtual reality, and how we, as media consumers, interact with it.