“…the entire universe comes to unfold arbitrarily on your domestic screen (all the useless information that comes to you from the entire world, like a microscopic pornography of the universe, useless, excessive…); all this explodes the scene formerly preserved by the minimal separation of public and private…” -The Ecstasy of Communication, Jean Baudrillard
Earlier in March, PC juggernauts, Valve, made waves with major announcements about new plans. Sadly, Half Life 3 is still just a fantasy. However, there was interesting news regarding virtual reality. The most notable is the release of the new trailer for HTC and Valve’s upcoming virtual reality headset, Re Vive. Given that it will be available for developers in the spring, we can expect the arrival of VR games and uses in the upcoming generation of gaming.
I am excited for the possibilities that can be explored as this technology develops. I imagine the most brilliant of minds collectively gasping at the advances it could bring for gaming and life. I also assume with confidence that the other 95-percent of us thought about pornography. But what is pornography than just the exaggeration of reality? Also, what is reality?
Although I support progress in gaming, the thought of losing even more touch with the physical world is terrifying. As the chasm between real and virtual inches closer to closing, we are slowly, and almost willingly, losing control of our minds and the ability to discern between the physical and digital world. Once the act of consuming exaggerated reality, whether it is social media, opinion news, or actual pornography, becomes habitual, we enter a space where the truths of each universe connect. This area, according to Philosopher Jean Baudrillard, is called hyperreality. In hyperreality, the private becomes a part of the public, distorting perceptions and creating a world where what was once an exaggeration, is now a norm and what was hidden is now a part of the design – in architecture, television, personality and life.
Valve’s announced development is relevant to this notion as it transports the user almost past the digital border, only to be constrained by the boundaries created by the game and by the various bodies of furniture and walls in real life. Though the hardware is far from the level where we should panic, the idea in its infancy serves as a reminder of our culture’s willingness to escape to the digital world.
It should be noted that this is not the first time we are turning to technology to change or leave reality. We assume different, artificial identities on the internet, in forums or in social media everyday. VR is just the most obvious and may be a sign for us to take a step back and reflect not on what is on screen, but on what is in front of us and what is tangible. Though video games are meant to transport us into unimaginable worlds and help us forget about what is around us, it is still essential to get a grip on reality and live in the truth every once in a while. A few minutes away from the screen and time spent outside or with loved-ones should be a comforting change of pace and treated like a new experience, not a loading screen. VR can wait. With all the hype that has surrounded Half Life 3 for over a decade now, we’ve neglected the notion that society has been living in it all this time.
Have any thoughts on VR? Make your voice heard in the comment section below. I would love to read them.