The Reality of Virtual Reality eSportsNovember 4, 2019
By: Mariano Roy, eSports Analyst
Virtual reality (VR) is an immersive gaming experience in which the user progresses within a three-dimensional environment via an electronic headset with sensors. While VR is gaining popularity, there are several reasons why it proves paradoxically promising and problematic.
The Social Consequence
VR hardware runs for roughly $400. In order to use the VR equipment, you’ll need a PC powerful enough to run it. This is at least another $1,000 (not including games, operating systems, reliable internet, etc.) Creating a gaming market that’s only accessible to those able to leisurely invest $1,500-$2000 for fun holds a social consequence towards the integrity of eSports as a whole. Spending half that price on a gaming console or investing in a home computer is still expensive, but it’s a far more attainable gift for mid to low income families. Creating a competitive space that’s only available to those with the means to afford it and the time to practice bears a social consequence to VR’s place within competitive gaming. If eSports become an activity for the rich, but an impracticality to the poor–it will die.
The Competitive Potential
Most of us have made animations by drawing on sticky notes and flipping from start to finish. You may have noticed that the more pages you draw on, the smoother your flip animation looks. The same applies to video games. The typical console runs between 30-60 FPS (frames per second.) The resolution refers to how many pixels are on a given frame. VR software requires a frame rate of at least 90+ FPS in order to avoid motion sickness. This, paired with HD resolution means that playing online will be a serious problem for those unequipped with the proper tools to run graphically intense games. It takes a lot for an online netcode to effectively run 90 FPS in UHD for two seperate players in different locations simultaneously. This is important because not every competitive player has access to high caliber training partners or eSport resources to take advantage of. Often times, gamers rely on online play in order to understand the meta of any given game. West-coast Mortal Kombat players may play differently than east-coast players. American League of Legends Players may play differently than European or Korean players. Knowing these match-ups and playstyles are important for major tournaments, but this fundamental exposure is going to be hard to access with a limited online experience.
The Gameplay Potential
Needless to say, the most promising feature of VR eSports is the versatility of the game’s environment. Competitive video games have a high skill cap by nature. However, at the highest level, the best players are determined by their game knowledge, dexterity, and reaction time. Often times, it’s hard to tell which one is which. Introducing an immersive 3D environment for a player to learn and memorize will increase the level of gameplay dramatically. This will allow for a more diverse skill-set at the highest level–while incentivizing the casual audience to explore the meta. This is to say: knowledge, dexterity, and reaction time will individually be more identifiable at the highest level in VR eSports. This will allow casual newcomers to more easily recognize where they need to improve.
Fun or Lucrative?
Between contact sports and eSports, it really is up to the player/audience to decide what is fun to play/watch. None of the issues listed above are out of the realm of remedy. So, to count out VR as a major market for the future of competitive gaming is an incomplete assessment. At the end of the day, it’s fun. Whether you use a keyboard or a controller, virtual reality offers an extremely natural method of exploration and execution that comes very naturally to able-bodied gamers. The problem lies within the accessibility of VR. I fear for a day where gaming becomes an elitist activity. However, I am optimistic that VR will create a distinct footprint within its role within eSports.