What will the “Ocarina of Time of VR/AR” be?

When I first played “POW” on NES, my kid-mind was blown away with those mind-bending 8-bit graphics. Some years later, as a pre-teen I found myself floored again with the amazing 16-bit textures and sprites of Donkey Kong Country on SNES.

Then on my teens, Ocarina of Time on N64 happened.

In that historic jump from from 2D to 3D graphics in the gaming world, Ocarina of Time shocked the world in such a profound way that it felt like an earthquake. A true marvel and revelation of artistic and technical achievement, Shigeru Miyamoto dropped OOT on the world just like Steve Jobs dropped pinch-to-zoom on the iPhone. We had never interacted this way with this level of all-encompassing sophisticated beauty, in this new, never-before-accesible third dimension, with these new mechanics, over such a meticulously gorgeous storyline, ever before. Remember how you felt playing The Water Temple for the first time? OOT was the “killer app” of the N64. Everything was awe-inspiring. Universally acclaimed as “The Best Game of All Time”, it represented a true turning point in immersion. Crazily enough, it’s hard to explain how 20 years later it’s “normal” that we’re past games as fantastic as Crysis and Skyrim, or that it’s “normal” to zoom on maps on your iPhone.

Imagine that same landmark scenario, but now in the historic jump from the third dimension — to the never-before-accessible Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality dimension.

We know the VR/AR revolution is knocking on our door these days, and we are doing everything possible to achieve full, unabridged immersion. We have overcome many of the initial hurdles: latency is low enough, the “screendoor effect” is supposedly taken care of, we have 3D sound of course, and now even suits are being developed so you can feel the virtual world, VR arcades are popping up, all hot in anticipation of the Oculus Rift VR launch next month, and Magic Leap’s AR sorcery.

The first wave will hit us soon, and initially, even the lackluster experiences will seem fantastic, just as even the craptastic Superman 64 would’ve seemed like a great game in the NES era. All the demos so far look cool and definitely feel cool, but there will come a time when something will be created in this new playing field that we will universally declare as a “turning point”. How long do you think it will it take for it to show up? What new Z-Targeting-type paradigm will it bring, if any? What will be that narrative that will enrapture us? Will a genre come truly on its own, just as the “open-world” genre games truly came to their own when processing power and 3D games matured? Maybe even a new genre will emerge. Thinking beyond, what new types of parental controls will be set in place for this new exponentially stronger attention grab, and the barrage of shrill addicting games that will definitely turn up?

I’m as eager to find out now as an adult, as I was back then.

All I know for sure is that just as that dusty N64 console and OOT cartridge I have stored away in a box somewhere heralded a new era in gaming, this first Oculus Rift Developer Kit that we have here will be a relic in short 20 years, when the VR/AR experiences of that era seem “normal”.

-Mats