A Future Of Virtual Reality Sport
Virtual sports are not so different from the real thing, except for that they’re entirely artificial
Looking up virtual reality developments online, you can come across a degree of disappointment that VR hasn’t quite taken the gaming world by storm the way it was predicted to. Somewhat like 3D television before it, it’s proving to be more of a luxury than a new normal – and a luxury that many people simply don’t want to bother with, at that.
Looking beyond gaming though, it’s fair to say that VR has expanded fairly rapidly into other areas. One such area is sports, where virtual reality is being discussed as a potential game changer in spectatorship. As you might imagine, there have already been examples of programs that can make it feel as if you, sitting at home with VR goggles on, are actually sitting in the front row for, say, a World Cup match or a game in the NBA Finals. Steve Ballmer, an owner in the NBA, has even discussed technology that would allow fans to see the game through players’ eyes. There’s no way around it: that would be absolutely astounding, and would be one of the better commercial uses of VR to emerge.
But as exciting as VR might be for sports fans and the future of spectating, its real involvement with sports might be in the creation of entirely new experiences. That is to say, there are also developments by which VR isn’t facilitating a new means of watching real sports, but rather introducing new (and artificial) sports altogether. Consider these examples, some of which already exist and some of which are on the way.
Virtual sports are not so different from the real thing, except for that they’re entirely artificial. Mind you this is not the same thing as what Ballmer proposed. Rather, virtual sports are popping up online and in casinos; betting markets have already emerged, and spectatorship is growing. The idea is to tune in to an entirely made up simulation of a horse race, football match, tennis competition, etc., and wager on the outcome. So far this is just happening on screens, but given that it’s already animated, some VR version is likely just around the corner.
Sparc (& Imitations)
Some have made note of the surprising lack of conventional sports games in VR. But that hasn’t stopped developers from essentially making up some new sports for the medium. One example is Sparc, which markets itself as a virtual sport. It’s somehow a combination of old arcade pong, tennis, and boxing, and while it’s more game than sport it does involve quite a lot of physical movement. This game and imitations of it will likely flood the VR market in due time, making up a whole new market of pseudo-sports.
Quidditch is probably the most famous imaginary sport on the planet, thanks to the Harry Potter book and film series. And probably inevitably, a student has already made it real in VR. Naturally, we can’t fly on broomsticks chasing magical balls in the real world (as is required in this sport), but in VR this is all entirely possible. We could well have entire virtual Quidditch leagues quite soon.
This goes hand-in-hand with Sparc to some degree, but any time a VR game or experience involves neon lighting, it’s compared to TRON. Throw in the fact that there are starting to be more VR arcade experiences involving contraptions you strap into or sit on to control, and a full-fledged TRON game feels quite likely. This game and others like it would be particularly popular in the public VR arcades that are starting to spring up in cities.
Through these experiences, and likely more we can’t even imagine yet, VR is essentially going to introduce its own wing of the sports and gaming industry.