Are video games virtual reality?

Phillip Brey, in his study Virtual Reality and Computer Simulation, argues that virtual reality is made up of four components: a virtual world, immersion, sensory feedback, and interactivity (Brey, 2008).  A virtual world, according to Brey “is a description of a collection of objects in a space and rules and relationships governing these objects.  In virtual reality systems, such virtual worlds are generated by a computer,” (Brey, 2008).  He defines immersion as “the sensation of being present in an environment, rather than just observing an environment from the outside,” (Brey, 2008).  “Sensory feedback,” Brey says, “is the selective provision of sensory data about the environment based on user input.  The actions and position of the user provide a perspective on reality and determine what sensory feedback is given,” (Brey, 2008).  And “interactivity, finally, is the responsiveness of the virtual world to user actions.  Interactivity includes the ability to navigate virtual worlds and to interact with objects, characters, and places,” (Brey, 2008).

There are also multiple definitions of virtual reality.  The narrower definition of the two “would only define fully immersive and fully interactive virtual environments as VR,” (Brey, 2008). Under this definition, most commercial video games would not be categorized as virtual reality.  There is, however, “a broader definition of virtual reality” which Brey defines “as a three-dimensional interactive computer-generated environment that incorporates a first-person perspective.  This definition includes both immersive and non-immersive (screen-based) forms of VR” (Brey, 2008).

However, I feel as if these definitions are both too narrow to encompass commercial video games which I see as virtual reality.  For instance, World of Warcraft is played in the third person, but it is still 3-D, immersive, interactive, and computer-generated.  It holds players’ interest in the story line, and can be completely immersive for players, to the extent that they lose touch with the outside world, forgetting to eat or sleep, and forgoing relationships with people in the tangible world.  Just because the first-person aspect of the definition may be missing, I still feel it is appropriate to call WoW virtual reality.

I therefore propose a third, more broad definition.  In my opinion, virtual reality should be defined as something computer-generated with an immersive, interactive virtual world.  this would encompass video games, so by my definition, video games are virtual reality.

Brey, P. (2008). Virtual reality and computer simulation. Himma and Tavani, 361-384.

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