EA Founder on VR: I Don't Want to Put on Goggles and Then Spill My Beer

Trip Hawkins says technology like Oculus Rift not only causes practical issues in the living room, but it might make people feel alienated or isolated.

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Electronic Arts founder Trip Hawkins isn't too thrilled with the idea of virtual reality, specifically the way in which the technology--like Oculus Rift--forces you to wear goggles. In doing so, you become disconnected with the physical world around you, which can lead to a number of practical issues, Hawkins told GameSpot.

"Personally, I'm not really a big fan of goggles. I don't really think that it's necessary," Hawkins said. "Having to put on glasses is kind of annoying and alienating. If I'm in my home, playing games, I don't want to knock my beer over, I don't want to not be able to find my phone if it rings; I don't want to not be able to make eye contact with other people in the room, you know?"

"You see in the movie industry, every decade or two they try to cram 3D into the movie theater and nobody really cares" -- Trip Hawkins

Hawkins likened the virtual reality industry to what we have already seen play out in the movie business for years, without great success. "You see in the movie industry, every decade or two they try to cram 3D into the movie theater and nobody really cares," he said.

Hawkins isn't the only well-known game industry person to pour cold water on Oculus Rift and virtual reality in general. Strauss Zelnick, CEO of Grand Theft Auto parent company Take-Two Interactive, questions virtual reality's mainstream appeal and thinks the technology is "anti-social." In addition, Doom creator John Romero said recently that he thinks virtual reality could just be a fad. It's important to note, however, that both Zelnick and Romero say they are excited about the future of virtual reality, even if they don't see it gaining mainstream success.

We have reached out to Oculus VR for a response to Hawkins' comments and will update this story with anything we hear back.

Trip Hawkins
Trip Hawkins

Hawkins' current project is If Game, an education-themed iOS title that aims to offer children a fun way to learn social and emotional skills in a fantasy world. Speaking with Hawkins this week about the project, I asked him if virtual reality technology like Oculus Rift could be a good fit for his game. I wondered if, at least in theory, virtual reality could allow children to more deeply immerse themselves in the learning adventure. Despite his personal disinterest in virtual reality, he didn't disagree with my premise.

"If we're talking about an immersive fantasy where you're trying to project yourself into the equivalent of an interactive movie, I think it's actually one of the better use-cases for technology like Oculus Rift," Hawkins said. "If I really want to be immersed in a sophisticated, real-life situation, then it makes the most sense."

By no means is this a confirmation that If Game is going to add Oculus Rift support. Introducing such a feature would be particularly problematic from a technical standpoint, too, considering Oculus Rift is a PC-focused peripheral at the moment. It may not be that way forever, though, as Oculus Rift designer John Carmack is currently working on a way to bring Oculus to mobiles.

Virtual reality technology has been a major talking point in 2014, thanks to investments in the space from two major companies. In March, Sony revealed its own virtual reality headset, Project Morpheus; just a week later, social networking behemoth Facebook announced that it had acquired Oculus VR for $2 billion. Neither Sony nor Oculus VR is saying yet when its respective headset will go on sale and what it will cost. Oculus VR does sell a special, developer-focused Oculus Rift headset, but this $350 unit is not the final consumer version.

We will have more from our interview with Hawkins about his new education-themed efforts in the days ahead.

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