Gaming has hit a bit of a snag. Few will openly admit it. However, it is a quantifiable thing when I say gaming does not seem to garner the same attention and ‘virality’ as it once did at the peak of the early 2000s and 2010’s. The narratives and technical capabilities have continued to grow and skyrocket, surely. So why the stagnation? In a simple sense, it’s consumer fatigue.
But it is more than just fatigue. We are now witnessing a few potentially worrying trends. Exemplary of this are instances of smaller game developers being consumed by conglomerates (a term I have coined as Disney Plusified). Recently, Insomniac Games being taken over by Sony is a classic example. This is the sign of the times where the ecology of entertainment is venturing more into the arena of tribal monopolisation. And monopoly is more often times synonymous with mundanity than it is with creative vivacity.
In the same way, film has often pooled in indentations of stagnation. Like gaming has now, one thing has been know to reinvigorate the medium – new technology. For film, it was the advent of DVDs and BluRay, further on to 3D and the leaps and bounds made with VFX. For gaming, it is augmented reality and VR.
And yes, this technology has been around for some time. Sadly, however, many of the games and experiences in the medium have been more explorative than notably purposeful to say the least. I am speaking in the wider, genre-defining sense of things. And in there is what’s missing. A definitive game that will drive the gaming community, be it an avid or casual gamer, towards VR. And this where my thoughts went when news of Half-Life: Alyx unleashed its announcement trailer.
It is not a game that was created as fodder like Batman: Arkham VR or as a side-experience built to support a multi-media franchise like Marvel’s Avengers: Damage Control. This feels like a unique gaming experience on a franchise that has been hotly anticipated for years since Half-Life 2 came out all those years in 2014. However, will it be enough to explode the limitless potential of VR? Or, better explained, will it awaken the majority’s appreciation of VR’s true limitless potential?
Off rip, Half-Life Alyx combines immersive gameplay with tried and true engaging genres. Puzzle, action, stealth and horror elements. However, these feel quite natural in the progression of things, rather than one-fits-all elements crowbarred in. The graphics look incredible as well, with gameplay that does not feel to rigid and structured. There are fully-interactive environments and objects that can be picked up and moved. You can almost see yourself losing track of time and space once hooked in to the action and narrative.
Ready for a wild prediction? Half-Life: Alyx, I predict, will be a defining, beacon-moment for the VR gaming realm for many years to come. Moreso than that, it has a high chance of being the definitive moment that will firmly place the VR gaming in the history books. In the same way Mortal Kombat did beat ’em ups or Resident Evil did survival horror and Super Mario did platformers. Except its the entire VR hardware and tech that will see a boost from this.
That’s a heavy task. Half-Life: Alyx, contrary to what it’s title suggests, went in with vigor in bringing the VR experience the full-on attention and care it deserves. A first despite there being a slew of VR titles that have peppered the gaming zeitgeist. Welcome to the future.