In my panel at Sci-Fi on the Rock yesterday towards the conclusion, I was posed the question “what do you think VR means for the future of comic book games?”. My first go to answer because I’m a huge Spider-Man fan, and the fact that there’s a game called Windlands that is very much like a Spider-Man experience, was Spider-Man. It would be incredibly cool to be strapped into a VR head set as you plummet from the top of a skyscraper only to shoot out your web-line and anchor it to the side of a building and actually put yourself in the shoes of Spider-Man, all from the safety of your own home. This morning I started thinking about the question even more and I thought, if someone doesn’t do Iron Man in some way shape or form they’re leaving money on the table.
Right now I’m pretty nonchalant about VR because it is just not that appealing to me for a few reasons. The first is the cost associated with it. I live in Canada where the dollar is, to nicely put it, not that great right now. Things like the Oculus when converted to Canadian dollars are close to $1,000 almost, and that’s just for the headset. When you factor in the rig to actually run the games the way they should, you’re looking at over twice that. The PlayStation VR headset is the most affordable option, however it’s the cost of the PlayStation 4 here and that’s just again for the headset. To play the games you also need a PlayStation camera, which I do own, as well as Move controllers, which I do not. Now there’s even rumours about Sony releasing an updated PlayStation to help run these and other games which I’m equally frustrated about. We’ve shown as consumers our willingness to upgrade devices thanks to the yearly release of smartphones and tablets with minor upgrades and now it seems console manufacturers are getting in on that too. I like console gaming because I only ever need to buy one set-top box and this just proves that really, consoles are a dying concept.
To get back on track a little from my tangent, I’m also concerned about the medical effects on my body of using a VR headset. I already wear glasses and hate going to 3-D movies, whether standard 3-D or IMAX 3-D, because I have to wear uncomfortable glasses, and I also suffer from stomach issues. The idea of playing a video game where I have to wear a headset along with glasses and being put in a disorienting space that will potentially make me sick is counter intuitive as to why I started liking video games to begin with. Yes, I like many play video games to escape to a fantasy world but I also play video games to relax, which I can’t see myself doing while playing a VR game. Also the present slate of VR games don’t really look all the appealing and all come across as tech demos. This is of course inherent of all technologies and I’m sure it will change as people adapt to developing for this platform, but right now nothing really screams to me “you must own this!”.
One thing that would perhaps get me interested in throwing money and my health to the wind were if someone decided to do an Iron Man game. Since the release of the first Iron Man film back in 2008 it still puzzles me that no one has really tried to make an Iron Man video game franchise. The character has proved to be one of, if not the, most popular characters in the Marvel Cinematic Universe with the box-office receipts to prove it. It could be that no one has tried because of the poor reception of the Sega games attached to the Iron Man films, which is a hard stigma to shake I’m sure, but it also could be the technology is only now catching up to how to portray the character correctly.
One of the coolest parts of the first Iron Man, of which there were many, was Tony Stark interacting with his technology. When construction the suit in his Church, he had manipulative holographic projections that he interacted with and when he finally dons the iconic armour, we see constant close-ups of Tony Stark as portrayed by Robert Downey Jr. where the audience can track his head motions and see his heads up display.
Now imagine being able to experience that in a video game.
Imagine walking around Tony Stark’s Malibu home with Dummy and constructing Iron Man suits; Adding and subtracting parts between missions to fit parameters. Further imagine once that suit is finally done, stepping into the Iron Man suit and seeing the heads up display come alive right in front of your eyes and then taking flight from your lab. Now once you’re in the air, you can look down and see ground below you from high up as your turn your head to see the sky from either side and suddenly your AI companion warns you of trouble that you have to go deal with. Think about the scene where Iron Man first confronts the terrorists once he finally has his completed armour as you raise a hand with the move controller to fire a repulosor, and head track target enemies to launch non-lethal flares to subdue them.
As far as I’m concerned, there doesn’t even have to be an action or fighting component. They could easily sell something like the Iron Man experience at a reduced price, heck, even full price where you can just fly around and see what it’s literally like to be in the head of Tony Stark and I would pre-order both the headset and game in a heartbeat. Super hero video games for decades now have allowed us to live our innermost fantasies, some good and bad, but with this new technology we can experience what it’s like to actually live as these characters minus the danger. Of all the heroes though, I can’t think of any more suited than Iron Man and hope that somewhere at Disney there’s a lot of people thinking the exact same way as me.