I recently participated in one of the first VR gaming tournaments in the world. The game: The Unspoken, a VR game that pits you against other players using avatars with sorcerer powers. It was a national event held at a number of Microsoft stores in the US and Canada. I
Aside from the thrill of battling strangers in VR while also meeting them in real-time in meat space, I also noticed that the excitement and the engagement from onlookers in the studio was just as energetic and exciting as anything you’d see in a normal esports gaming tournament, where traditional consoles are used such as the PlayStation and the Xbox.
This particularly struck me because there seems to be an obsession from some with finding the “killer app” of the VR. Some wonder if it will be discovered in the realm of advocacy, regarding VR as an “empathy machine,” while others wonder if it will come from the world of social media apps that allow people to engage each other and become friends in VR. Perhaps the most talked about possible vector is gaming, so this tournament felt like a great firsthand opportunity to see just how viable that might be.
There simply isn’t any way to describe the thrill of being a competitor in a live VR gaming match with a live audience in the same room with you cheering you on. But I can say this, the only other time I’ve experienced this kind of thrill was when I was playing intramural basketball years ago in front of a traditional sports crowd. The same adrenaline dumps and nervous lows after a missed play hit me in the same way, despite the fact that I was in VR.
As to whether this format will lead to the first great VR Application that is widely adopted — that remains to be seen. However, I think that in order for this to happen, the hardware set-up will have to become significantly more frictionless and easy to deploy in large numbers. Not until that happens will we have even an inkling of a sense of how far VR gaming can go.
Nevertheless, in terms of pure excitement and engagement, The Oculus Unspoken tournament proved that there is a place for VR gaming as a major event, it’s just a matter of getting more players into the arena.