Why virtual reality's killer app is the walking simulator

Boldly going where no shooter has gone before

Why virtual reality's killer app is the walking simulator

With 2016 just around the corner, and the launch of at least three major VR headsets on our doorstep, we're starting to ask ourselves: which genre could stand to gain the most from the new technology?

It's not the racing game, the FPS or the 'sitting in cockpit doing stuff' game. You can keep those.

For my money, it's the much-maligned walking simulator. Here's why.

VR hasn't solved moving fast (yet)

While you might be anticipating strapping a headset to your face and tearing around the map in the latest Call of Duty, it's not likely to happen for a few years yet.

The problem with the fast paced action games is showing this fast movement in a meaningful way in VR. Whipping your viewpoint around all over the place is disorientating, while bringing the speed down is another no-no.

Walking simulators are about that: walking. So you should be able to amble about a Portland town house or a Shropshire village in VR without puking every five seconds.

These games don't need high specs

VR is going to put a strain on your PC. Streaming high definition images at 90-odd frames a second will make many computers wheeze and expire.

Thankfully, the lower specs and slower pace of many walking simulators will let developers do more with less, and let a whole lot of people enjoy exploring a virtual world without splashing out for a top of the line machine.

Walking Simulators and VR are both about 'immersion'

A walking simulator is a game which often lacks many of the traditional aspects you might associate with a normal video game: Goals, win/loss conditions, mechanics. A large part of what you actually do involves strolling at a leisurely pace around the game's locations and looking at stuff. The journey is the destination and exploring is, in many cases, its own reward.

Imagine exploring the Yaughton from Everybody's Gone To The Rapture or the darkened house of Gone Home but rather than peering at a computer screen and moving a mouse you're "in" the buildings, using motion sensitive controls to move and manipulate the world around you.

With the recent addition (and removal) of VR support to The Vanishing of Ethan Carter, the possibility is closer than you think.

They offer unique experiences

Yes, Mad Max or Metal Gear Solid V also offer unique experiences, but the games are the spectacle - a burning wreck or a tense firefight are always exciting. A good exploration game will let you actively explore rainy caravan parks or vividly coloured fields with the focus solely on the environment.

These exploration based games can offer up entirely atypical experiences that can show a variety of perspectives. Why not use a piece of technology that can give you this?