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virtual reality gaming (VR gaming)

Contributor(s): Matthew Haughn

Virtual reality gaming is the application of a three-dimensional (3-D) artificial environment to computer games. Virtual reality environments are created with VR software and presented to the user in such a way that they supercede the real-world environment, creating suspension of disbelief and helping the user experience the VR  environment as real.

At its simplest, a VR game might involve a 3-D image that can be explored interactively on a computing device by manipulating keys, mouse or touchscreen. More sophisticated and immersive examples include VR headsets, wrap-around display screens and VR rooms augmented with wearable computers and sensory components, such as scents and haptics devices for tactile feedback.

VR gaming has been dreamed about almost as long as video games -- and especially 3D games -- have existed. Prior to the development of compact technology, VR gaming used projector rooms or multiple screens. VR gaming control may involve a standard keyboard and mouse, game controllers or motion capture methods. More complex VR rooms may include treadmill floors or similar methods to further the user’s sense of freedom of movement and feelings of immersion within the virtual environment. In other VR gaming setups, the user may be confined to a limited area surrounding a computer but have free range of motion within the area.

As technology progresses, virtual reality gaming hardware has matured to the point that VR headsets offer a great exerience with little lag or nausea, two areas that had presented problems historically. Some VR headsets on the market include HTC Vive, Occulus Rift, Microsoft Hololens, Samsung VR, PlayStation VR and Google Cardboard. Most of these offer motion sensing controllers and a tracker to work in concert with the headset. Some offer room-scale VR capabilities while others are designed to be used in a seated or stationary position. In addition to entertainment, VR games can be used for various types of training and for virtual reality therapy.

VR gaming is distinct from augmented reality gaming, which involves the integration of digital content with the user’s real-world environment.

This was last updated in August 2016

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