Virtual reality and mobile gaming: the next bold step?

Evan Selleck
Contributing Editor from Arizona
Published: July 19, 2013

I've been called a gamer more than a few times. And that's okay, because it's true. When I buy a phone, games are not usually the first thing I download, but always. It doesn't even matter the platform. BlackBerry 10, Windows Phone 8, Android or iOS, games are always the first thing I find, download and use. Yeah, the standard social networking tools make their way onto my phone eventually, usually the first day, but it's always the games that are first.

So when something in the gaming industry touches on the mobile market, I have to dig into it. I have to weigh the options. And, well, I have to talk about it. Because usually the ideas, the broadening scope, and the new games are worth talking about, especially if you're a gamer. Or even if you're just looking for something to kill some time here and there.

Of course, how you play games on your device is probably completely dependent on your situation at the time. Where you are, what you're doing, that kind of thing. Some people play games on an airplane, just to pass the time. Others may do it on a long road trip. Or, if you're like me, you just play them to play them. Maybe it's a leader board that you're trying to get to the top of.

Those situations call for different games in some instances. Titles like Bejeweled Blitz for instance are quick titles that you can play in about a minute or so, and then move on to other things. No necessity to invest a lot of time in it. And then you've got titles like LIMBO or Deus EX: The Fall, which may give you the ability to stop at any time, but you just don't want to because they're that good, and that deep. Even for a mobile game.

There's no doubt in my mind that mobile games have evolved well past what people thought they were. Just look at LIMBO. It's almost ridiculous how good that is. And that's just one of the many, many other titles out there that fit the bill for in-depth gaming on your smartphone or tablet. It's awesome.

And we're still moving forward. As our phones get more powerful, our games will continue to get better. And so will the technology powering them. It's exciting, for anyone who likes technology.

So, what's the next step?

It could very well be something I haven't used since I was a kid, in a strip arcade somewhere in Wisconsin. Sounds shady, I know, but it isn't. Promise.

I'm talking about virtual reality. Way back then, it was a huge headset that I put on, stood in a small pen, and ran around in a digital battlefield somewhere shooting a fake weapon, with a life-sized model in my hands. It was a fun experience, for sure. But that headset, and all that equipment, always meant, to me, that I'd never be able to really experience it outside of that space. Too bulky. Too much stuff.

That's changed over the years, obviously. Much like everything else, the equipment, the materials, and the essential pieces of technology inside the equipment have gotten better. More practical. That's why a company called Oculus VR has been able to create the Oculus Rift, and why they continue to hope to bring virtual reality technology into the home. Cheaper, too.

And that could very well be the next step for our mobile games. Apparently the company is looking into the idea, and that they see a future where you'll be able to plug a device like the Oculus Rift right into your "next-gen smartphone." They're actually excited at how quickly smartphones are improving, and believe that it lines up nicely with how often the VR technology will need to be upgraded as well.

How do you feel about the idea of playing virtual reality games on your phone? Would you feel okay wearing some kind of head unit while on an airplane, being completely "immersed" in a game? I already see folks on their tablets, playing titles with gyroscopic support, twisting their devices back and forth trying to interact with the title. I can only imagine how that would look with a VR unit on the head as well.

Do you think you'd pick up a VR unit to play on your phone? If that's an avenue for gaming down the road, even if its four years from now, do you think you'd travel down it? Or will you be looking for a different exit? Let me know!

Products mentioned