Virtual reality has a reputation as being anti-social and isolating, but one of the brains responsible for Sony’s move into VR thinks that putting a headset on can bring people together.
In October, Sony Interactive Entertainment will launch the PlayStation VR headset for the PS4, and lead researcher Richard Marks said onstage at GamesBeat 2016 that he expects that to have a positive effect on how people interact with one another. He points out that a lot of early games are for solo players because that’s easier to build, but Sony and other developers are already working on multiplayer experiences. That includes The Playroom VR, which is a multiplayer game in which several players can interact with at once with only a single PSVR headset.
“There are a lot of different social things going on,” said Marks. “That social experience of being in another place with somebody — there’s nothing really else like that. It’s one of the most powerful things about VR.”
But Marks also thinks VR’s social implications go beyond the screen. It’s something that people want to share with one another, he claims. He told a story where his sons had friends over who were all trying the PlayStation VR. And they were having so much fun that one of the friends, an 18-year old, called his mom and dad so that they could come over and try PlayStation VR.
“That was pretty strange — for an 18 year old to invite his parents to something,” said Marks. “But then his parents came and called over their other son and his girlfriend. Soon we had this home full of people all trying VR for the first time.”
Finally, Marks mentioned that VR can give players a social sensation even when they’re alone.
“You can get a feeling of social presence from an autonomous, game character,” he explained. “It’s different from seeing them on TV. You can see where they’re looking, and they feel more intelligent. Just having a character turn to look at you and then their friend — it all feels more real.”
Sony won’t ignore social on PlayStation VR, and that was obvious before Marks comments with amazing demos like the one the publisher showed off at