At the start of 2018, the International Data Corporation (IDC), arguably the premier source of market intelligence and considered the industry standard for measuring growth and market share, made a bold prediction. The virtual and augmented reality market would expand from just over $9 billion in 2017 to a staggering $215 billion by 2021. That incredible 118% compound annual growth rate would make VR one of the fastest-growing industries.
Come 2021, the global virtual and augmented reality market sported a measly $20 billion to show for itself. While the Covid-19 pandemic is being touted routinely nowadays as the villain for most businesses or industries, research suggests that the epidemic surprisingly helped the growth in market revenue for virtual and augmented reality. As companies began operating remotely, they could now afford to invest more in research and development. And with the advent of new and advanced technology, the hype started again, allowing cautious optimists to go so far as to predict that the market would reach 453.5 billion US dollars by 2030 with a 40.7% annual compound growth rate.
Amidst all this, understanding the extent of VR gaming's role in the future is an exhaustive exercise but one we shall undoubtedly attempt.
Fundamentally, virtual reality necessitates complete involvement - total auditory, sight, and sensory investment for a set time. During this period, the game is your world, and your brain considers what you encounter as an actual experience. It's easy to write that off as simply being no different from playing without a clunky headset, but clearly, virtual reality blinds you from your environment. Situations may absolve you of the need to be responsive or reactive, but not always. Thus, unlike traditional gaming setups, countless problematic scenarios exist - from dealing with small kids and pets to managing obstacles and emergencies.
Research also suggests that VR confuses the eye-brain connection, something called the vergence-accommodation conflict, which essentially happens when the brain receives mixed signals between the actual distance of an object and the focusing distance required for the eyes to see it distinctly. Walter Greenleaf, a behavioral neuroscientist who works with Stanford University's Virtual Human Interaction Lab, gives the following example: "In a virtual environment, the way we look and interact changes
because we may be projecting onto the eyes something that looks far." Thus, we trick the brain without ample knowledge of its long-term effects. Add eye strain, headache, and motion sickness, and you have a long list of issues for VR technology to combat.
However, that isn't to say that VR gaming has no future. With numerous advances in state-of-the-art technology and prices becoming more reasonable, it might not be long before we experience the promised dreams. Creators and producers have also begun releasing only VR games, such as Half-Life: Alyx and Bone works, which have encountered mass popularity.
The game content is quite significant, however, since VR drastically affects your perception of reality. The brain's memory center stores your adventures almost alongside real-world experiences. As individuals get habituated to a certain mindset, they may perform specific actions or behave in a particular way. This process also works in the opposite way, as people might, more likely than not, grow to emulate the actions they see themselves performing virtually. Educational, inspirational, or scenic games can, in fact, help people gain knowledge, learn to be better human beings, and appreciate nature's beauty. If the game content comprises ethically immoral or violent undertones, it's not so far-fetched to imagine its consequences on the population.
Understandably, if something is as powerful as being able to shape an individual's behavior patterns or characteristics for the better or worse, we have to take the utmost care to use it wisely. VR undoubtedly has the potential to go big. Now, it's up to us.