Former Valve VR Contractor Explains Why “VR Is Bad News”

On the dangers of VR, Facebook, and our cyberpunk future.

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Fabian Giesen, a Valve contractor who contributed to Valve’s VR room project, has explained his statement that made the rounds recently that “VR is bad news.”

Giesen worked for Valve as a programmer for nine months during 2012, and then for another three months ending in April this year. According to Giesen’s post to GitHub, Valve was developing both AR (augmented reality) and VR technology, and he decided to end his 2012 contract when the company decided to pursue the latter.

“[VR] seems to be fundamentally anti-social, completing the sad trajectory of entertainment moving further and further away from shared social experiences,” Giesen said in a letter to a colleague at the time.

Giesen admits that he’s not a fan of online gaming in general, and thinks “VR is bad news” since it’s currently focused on creating a “gateway to the ultimate MMORPG,” which offers only basic social interaction (compared to in-person interaction).

According to Giesen, the fact that Facebook acquired Oculus VR for $2 billion complicates things further.

“Imagine a shared universe MMORPG, expressly operated by a company that *already knows all your friends*, that's trying to maximize your engagement (‘hey, all your friends are playing right now, don't you want to join too?’), selling your attention to advertisers, and by the way, also building a detailed profile on everything you do so they can do all of this even better in the future. It's okay, go on doing whatever you want, we just want to watch! (Through your own eyeballs if possible).”

Giesen explained that this is not Facebook’s fault specifically, but rather the result of the current state of the tech business, where the standard is to offer a service for free and support it with ads.

“That's a very cyberpunk future all right, but one I'd prefer not to live in.”

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