what is a reverse improvement

3rd Person Reality


So here's a fascinating bit from Gamasutra on what Insomniac is running into while creating Edge of Nowhere for Oculus. It has some of that cool developer thought-stuff that often lurks behind features we're not meant to notice, but what it sparks are thoughts decidedly more philosophical than functional (so here's your chance to slowly back away while thoughtfully nodding).

Obviously, VR lends itself to the first-person perspective. It's basically baked into the name itself: reality is in first-person, so the virtual one is too! The same could almost be said of all video games employing human analogs: if you're not essentially controlling yourself, then what are you controlling? Who are you? It's exactly the question that 3rd person VR games seem to pose (however ethereally), but it's only the latest incarnation of the inquiry (seriously, get out while you can).

It's inherent to any 3rd person game: we can see our avatar, we can witness our movements, but never through our eyes. Or only through our eyes? We've long since learned to accept the ambiguity, sometimes even savoring the separation, but VR is about to make that a whole lot harder. For Edge of Nowhere, Insomniac does away with the guessing game: our eyes are our eyes, placed firmly inside our skulls, watching our tiny digital puppet do whatever our fingers tell it to do. In technical terms you are the camera, but you are you.


Well that's the exciting part: we don't know. Touchscreen gaming came to a comparable crossroads early on that had developers drawing d-pads on our devices before learning to embrace the strengths of the medium to give us something truly unique, something that couldn't exist anywhere else. 3rd person VR will turn us all into glorified cameras, that much is certain, but now our digital puppets may someday look over their shoulder in a way they never could before, into our recently reclaimed eyes, and ask:

Who are you?