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Time Unloads Full Clip Into VR's Chances for Mainstream Acceptance

Oh cool, a cover story on VR! Oh, wait. Oh. Oh man.

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I first saw Palmer Luckey's Time cover when professional Hit Detector N'Gai Croal tweeted it out this morning and here were my first thoughts, in order.

  • Oh no.
  • Oh damn it.
  • Oh no!
  • Oh, they're killing this thing before it's even getting started.
  • But Palmer's so amazing!
  • How could anyone involved let VR get represented this way before the hardware is even out?
  • Fuck!
  • Shit!
  • Why?
  • Wait, is this some kind of fake cover joke?

At that point I went over to Time's website and saw the image there, officially. Fuck, man. Wow.

Oculus founder Palmer Luckey is an incredibly inspiring dude. I've really enjoyed interviewing him on our E3 live shows and seeing him speak about the potential for VR is positively infectious. You start to believe that this can all happen and be real and mainstream and big and world-changing when you hear him speak about it. Hell, after hearing him profess his enthusiasm about Smash Bros., I was even ready to give that another shot. But this Time cover. Wow wow wow.

Say what you will about the relevancy of a print magazine in 2015, but Time is still going to reach the mainstream in a very real way. It'll peer out from newsstands as people walk past. The oldsters who don't bother keeping up with whatever "the kids" are into these days might see it. And this could be their first pre-release look at modern VR. A dude, Photoshopped up in the air, shoeless, kind of pretending to... fly? Flutter? On some kind of beach or something?

When you try it for yourself and talk to the people out there involved in building some of the first consumer-focused VR experiences we'll see over the next 12-18 months, it's inspiring. It's real. It's believable. When I look at this image, all I can think is "man, this whole thing is over before it even started." You'd like to think that someone involved in the process of making all this happen might've stepped in and said "hey, I get that we want to convey something about surprising joy here, but maybe we can find a less insane way to get that across. One that doesn't make all this look like some kind of fucking New Age cyberhippie beach fantasy land for complete lunatics?" Is he trapped on the island from the end of Neuromancer or something?

The tech works and the content is coming. But getting a wide audience to try, understand, and even embrace VR is already an uphill battle. Obviously one magazine cover won't sink virtual reality's commercial viability. But this image probably ain't helping.

I'm going to take a few deep breaths and maybe go and actually read the article that goes with this image and... yeah. Wow.

Jeff Gerstmann on Google+