Monday Musings: Social Bonds in VR

Blog Posts ,Random Musings ,Virtual Reality
December 28, 2015

Welcome to Monday Musings! These are are shorter-form, note-like blog posts that I share that may or may not be related to VR/AR, but that I want to share some quick thoughts on, get some extra insight on, or share out quickly.

I started drafting this post about social VR experiences about a week and a half ago, but as I was working on it, I realized that what I wanted to share today was less about “Social VR” experiences, and more about how VR as a tool can help real-world relationships.

Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes is, perhaps, the first game of its kind – a hybrid between a virtual reality app and strategy game. For me, this type of companion experience is probably most compelling at this point in the industry, since overall ownership is still fairly uncommon and every owner is an evangelist. Applications that encourage the user to connect back to those in the physical world and are designed around the people not in VR as well as the person wearing the headset target an interesting use case that has been, in my experience, commonly found but often not considered an integral part of the application itself.

The teamwork aspect of Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes encourages players to immediately tackle a common goal, and being in VR while having the people around you actively influencing and helping you achieve a task, in my experience, adds to the immersion of what you see as being “real”. It’s not something that just you are seeing, it’s something that your friends are also buying into.

And those friends aren’t people sitting far away from you or anonymous avatars with names above them, they’re the people sitting next to you. The tension in the room is shared – you don’t have the burden of diffusing the bomb alone, and you aren’t isolated. Even with shared VR experiences, you’re still experiences social behavior in a bubble – solo VR experiences, even social ones, tend to have more of a dream-like feeling to them than a game that you can immediately discuss with the person next to you after you take off the headset.

What’s come the closest to the same feeling is Toybox – even though I was in a physically separated space from the person playing with me, the feeling was much closer to a shared experience than a distributed social one, and I suspect that this will get even better as presence and tracking continues to improve over the next few years. That said, I still really like the model that Keep Talking explores by making the virtual and physical worlds overlap, and I can’t wait to see a larger set of companion experiences start coming out that tie VR into other areas of technology to create some really unique shared experiences, both in the HMD and out.




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