Augmented Reality. Virtual Reality. Both terms are very popular as of late and both contain the same word, even though they are very different when it comes to achieving “reality”. With the introduction of the Oculus Rift and the HTC VIVE, not to mention PlaystationVR entering the ring soon, Virtual Reality has been a buzzword in the industry for the last handful of years. Augmented Reality doesn’t quite share the same mass market and contemporary appeal as the other Reality does, but, even though it has been around for a long time, AR is starting to rise in popularity in part due to Google Hololens and most recently Pokemon Go. So what are these two phrases and what makes them so different?
Well, short answer: Virtual Reality is an effort to bring you further into the game buy making the game world as close to a visual and audible reality as possible, while Augmented Reality is concerned with infusing the game into the real world around you. Both of these avenues of experiencing a game, are concerned with immersion, pulling the player into the game as much as possible to make it the most enjoyable as possible, but one might be more positive than the other.
Virtual Reality pulls you out of reality, better or for worse, while Augmented Reality, makes you come to face with it, but just puts our reality in a different context. While VR is interesting and could find a permanent place as a way to play games (if only it stopped making everyone sick), AR seems to provide players with something more. Pokemon Go, for instance, forces you to go out and walk the streets to catch pokemon, find items, and battle at gyms. Yes there is the benefit of exercise, but depending on the AR experience, there is a sense of community. I was playing Pokemon Go and I was walking around New York City and came across Union Square. There were 5 Pokestops all right next to each other, and lures on all of them. Cherryblossoms were everywhere. And so were the people. So many different people were looking up from their phones at each other, catching a peek at the phone of the neighbor next to them. Men, Women, even some officers of the NYPD had their phones out, catching Pokemon. There was a community in that park. People were sharing their stories. Some guy asked me for my level. I told him and I asked him his. He was a few levels lower than me, but I told him that he will get there soon. Words of encouragement to a complete stranger. This is the power of AR used successfully. Bringing people out of their houses, into the world, and talking with each other. While VR separates and divides players from most people in the outside world, AR unites games and reality to create a real experience, even if it’s a little bit augmented.