Once again E3 has come and gone, and we’ve had time to digest some of the year’s biggest gaming highlights. One aspect that stands out is that the major gaming companies seem to be investing heavily on a technology in particular. Yes, you’ve guess it; Virtual Reality. About a year ago, as part of my first editorial I wrote an article about VR and the future of gaming and boy, has the scene evolved since! As such, it inspired me to write a followup on the current state of VR, what has changed since and what needs to be changed. We’ve moved from the Oculus’ DK2 to actual (not cheap, $599) retail hardware, the Microsoft Hololens is now shipping its dev edition, Valve reportedly has a third (!) of its employees engaged in VR and more prominent figures are jumping into this newly found reality. These efforts seem to bring the technology to a wider audience, giving shape to John Carmack’s prediction on the matter that VR technology requires at least a billion users to take off. We’ve now passed the stage of demos and concepts to actual, full-blown games many of which have been released (Chronos is a thing now!) and many more exciting titles are around the corner. Even renowned titles like Resident Evil and Final Fantasy are integrating the technology in their next title. All of these aspects sound fascinating and indeed promising on paper. Or in writing, for that matter. However, one thing that most of us are not discussing about is the inevitable hazards that accompany VR gaming. Maybe not enough gamers have experienced it to voice it out or maybe it’s just us practicing the ostrich policy in favor of the much coveted immersive gaming. This lack of focus on VR hazards (VzaRds?) is actually concerning, considering the serious impact it can potentially have on our health and the industry itself. Forget tripping over wires or punching the wall or hitting your head on furniture. There are more pressing issues. The problem at hand is VR sickness. Similar to motion sickness and seasickness, the mechanism behind VR sickness lies in the inconsistencies between the visual and vestibular systems. In virtual reality, however, "the brain is expecting everything to be in sync, but things are not in sync,” says Mayank Mehta, a neuroscientist at UCLA studying the effects virtual reality exposure on the brain; the virtual world is "incomplete.” And you most likely know what ensues; headache, nausea, which culminate into emptying your stomach’s content. Now with titles like Resident Evil 7, you can literally puke and soil your pants at the same time. Sounds funny in writing but understandably horrible to experience, and not an inviting one at that. Such side effects may effectively turn-off your VR-gasm, ward off potential adopters and on a global scale, not a lucrative investment for gaming companies. However, the major concern is that when it comes to understanding VR’s effects on the brain, scientists "don’t really know what’s going on". That’s basically what Mayank Mehta confessed in a Live Science interview. Recent studies of lab rats at the UCLA Keck Center for Neurophysics have revealed negative side effects including "cybersickness" and abnormal patterns of activity in rat brains, including 60 percent of neurons that simply shut down in virtual reality environments. How bad is this? "We don't know the long-term consequences," Mehta says. If a new technology’s influence on our biology isn’t totally clear, and has even showed side-effects, doesn’t it call for wariness? "I would say this is reason for caution, not business-as-usual," Mehta advises. Speaking of business, what about the financial aspect of VR? Quite literally, it is an investment from the part of the gamer, costing almost as much as current-gen consoles, not to mention that you need one to enjoy high-end VR. Take a look at the infographic below: The cheapest way to VR high end as of now (soon) is the PSVR. However, with only a bunch of games available at launch, does it justify investing in an add-on? Moreover, the lack of cross-play could hinder the growth of the VR in terms of fanbase. VR gamers are currently divided between the PSVR, Oculus Rift and Vive and soon, the XBox’s own VR will join the race and possibly Nintendo too! If you own more than one current-gen console/PC, your investment goes up and up if you you want to experience VR on each. Thankfully, Oculus recently ditched its DRM check so you don’t need both Oculus and Vive for your PC… Oh and what about Project Socrpio’s VR? That too shall have a dedicated headset? My, my! The prospect of all those spending might drive gamers away from embracing those headsets altogether or more viciously, set up breeding grounds for piracy... Nonetheless, the side-effects of VR gaming are known and some steps have been taken to make the user experience more enjoyable. Some of these measures include restricting the time spent with VR headsets, lengthy disclaimers à la Samsung Gear VR and increasing the screen’s refresh rate. These are hopefully early signs of improvement in this mostly unknown industry. VR has, and will, undeniably influence the way we game for years to come. But high headset price, known side effects and basically venturing in uncharted areas, could these mean a short lifetime of such a promising gaming method? Do these foretell a similar fate to yesteryear’s popular self-igniting “hoverboards”? Most likely not. Gamers have been dreaming of such immersive gaming ever since gaming was a thing. And they won’t let go of such an anticipated gaming experience. At its core, the aim of gaming is to have fun and if VR is the new way to game, then the whole experience has to be an enjoyable one. Allow extended periods of play, remove the nausea-inducing causes and lower the entry-point costs, then it’ll readily be adopted. Else, only those who can afford VR headsets and make do with the side effects will adopt it and create a gaming community segregated into the VR haves and have-nots... Okay. That’s too apocalyptic of a scenario, but you get the gist. ________________________ As a final note, if you are curious about this article’s title, it’s an anagram for "Virtual Reality", as is "fed us its 'real’ touch" for "Oculus Rift headset" but also "caused truth of lies”. Which one will it be, or more verbosely, what will you make of it?