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Why virtual reality is better than augmented reality for gaming

Hayden Dingman | Jan. 23, 2015
Microsoft's HoloLens Minecraft demo got people excited for augmented reality games, but that might be premature. 'Specific games under specific circumstances' is the unmentioned asterisk.

AR: Good for plenty, just not traditional games
That lack of control is the real problem with augmented reality gaming. Nothing else. Talk to people on Skype while walking down the street? Fine. Fix a light switch? The worst that happens is you learn how to rewire a light switch while not actually sitting next to a light switch.

But games and stories require control. Otherwise, everything becomes somewhat of a generic humdrum regulated by chance, with no real progression possible. How long can a lightgun game interest you? And I don't mean like House of the Dead. I mean a lightgun game regulated by the furniture you're surrounded by, so you always know there are the same 10-15 spots for enemies to emerge from for the entire time you're playing.

Microsoft's HoloLens demo is very clever so far. But it's clever under a specific set of circumstances. It's like watching the original Kinect demos, and then seeing what we actually got--a product that required a very specific room of a very specific size with specific furniture.

Not to mention that Microsoft used Minecraft, a game that is unlike any other game on the market. In its purest form, Minecraft is a virtual Lego set. Lack of control doesn't matter to Minecraft. Build on your coffee table. Build on your stove. Build on your bed. Why should Minecraft care? There's no real story except for what you build. It's a toy box.

Similar games--ones that rely on user creativity more than traditional bastions of story, design, et cetera--may work fine in augmented reality. (PCWorld's Mark Hachman certainly enjoyed his time with Minecraft when he tested HoloLens.) But that's an incredibly small market, and HoloLens isn't really an Oculus Rift competitor under those restrictions (at least as far as gaming is concerned).

And again, this wouldn't even be a discussion except that Microsoft demoed HoloLens alongside Minecraft and made it a discussion. I don't see people talking about how Google Glass is going to come along and kill Oculus. They're different products, designed for different things, and that's absolutely fine.

I'm totally pumped for augmented reality. Get more people building PCs by providing tutorial info about which piece goes into which slot, or teach me to play piano better by projecting how I should perform a song straight onto the keys. In many fields, this tech could quite literally change everything.

Gaming, though? I'm pretty sure I'll pin my hopes on virtual reality. Now, some enterprising developer go prove me wrong.


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