The 1980s and 1990s were a crazy era for technology. All kinds of video game consoles were being released and technology was evolving at an incredibly rapid pace. In fact, things were moving so fast that people thought we would be living in space by 2001 (remember Space Odyssey?). One of the most notable advances was this whole idea of Virtual Reality.
This one is older than I am, but the memes are high quality. You’ve probably seen this black room with a yellow grid before. I had to throw this in as an ode to Star Trek and arguably as what started this whole idea of Virtual Reality.
Remember playing the Sega Genesis Virtual Reality? Think about it real hard… No, you probably don’t. Why? Because it never actually released! It was going to be the first home virtual reality console and it was only going to cost $200. Everyone promoted it, and buyers from Wal-Mart and Best Buy were dying to get their hands on as many of them as possible. It was going to be a guaranteed success for Sega. So, what happened?
Just months before the release, the Stanford Research Institute had a few subjects test the console. It was discovered that subjects would experience sever dizziness, nausea and projectile vomiting after playing for short periods of time. If children were to use it, side effects may have been much more severe. There’s a cool video about the Sega Genesis Virtual Reality Add-on here.
I am a huge Nintendo fan, but this was the easiest pass of all time for me. And clearly for a lot of other people also. The Virtual Boy was Nintendo’s biggest flop dying out in less than a year. Under 12 games were released. If you have few extra minutes and want to get a really good laugh, I highly recommend this roast/review of the Virtual Boy by the Angry Video Game Nerd.
Naturally, Atari had to had to grab a slice of the Virtual Reality pie as well. The Atari Jaguar lasted about three years after its original release in 1993. It went completely bust, but some add-ons were made for it throughout its short life. One of them was the VR headset which never actually saw the light of day. They were reportedly all destroyed before release except for two. One went up for auction in 2013 and the starting bid was $14 500!
That was 30 years ago though! Maybe the world is ready for a well-executed VR console. Virtual Reality is becoming more common and headset prices are beginning to decrease. Perhaps enough of a decline in price will lead to mass adoption.
Virtual Reality still has a long was to go however. Even modern-day headsets give you a headache or dizziness after some gameplay (nothing like the Sega Genesis add-on though!). You can’t share screens either and a big part of gaming nowadays is playing with friends. And of course the awkwardness of the headset is a massive issue. No one can walk around wearing a VR headset while looking casual. Its just so bulky and odd-looking.
However, we have come a long way since the 80s. Maybe in 5-10 years if most of the above-listed flaws see a resolution, VR will be mainstream.