Many of today’s video games offer incredibly lifelike visuals, but if you’re sitting in front of your television or computer monitor, you’re still seeing the four sides of your screen and the rest of your room around it.
This can ruin the all-important suspension of disbelief. For an even more immersive experience, many gamers are slipping on a virtual reality (VR) headset to be transported to another world altogether. That is, you are “in” the game, complete with 360-degree visuals, tied to head tracking, therefore wherever you turn your head in real life (up, down, side-to-side, or even looking behind you), your perspective in a first-person game is also mirrored inside the virtual content.
What’s more, audio is also “spatialized” in VR, therefore you can hear sounds all around you, such as a moaning zombie creeping up from behind you or a roaring dinosaur just ahead. Most VR systems also let you “touch” virtual content by using a controller in each hand, or in some cases, using nothing but your hands. With most VR systems, you’ll be prompted to establish a play area around you using a controller, and should you accidentally get too close to something, such as a wall, you may see a faint outline of the real-world object while inside your virtual world, to alert you. Some games can be played while sitting down, too.
While it took a couple of years to grow from a niche market to a mainstream activity, there are now a variety of VR headsets available. Headsets, or head-mounted displays (HMDs), are available in one of three flavors: tethered models connected to a PC (like HTC Vive Cosmos, Valve Index, Oculus Rift), or a console (like PSVR); standalone models (like Oculus Quest 2), which are cable-free and can download and store content via WiFi; and a few that require a smartphone to be inserted into the front of the HMD, but not a popular option today. Most headsets can fit comfortably over eyeglasses.