You’ve probably heard or said at least one of these.
Alright, so VR fitness gaming is admittedly a weird hybrid of sorts. A mish-mash of gaming, exercise, and VR.
Development cycles for active VR games are only now beginning to take shape, and even so, the hardware still hasn’t reached an echelon where working out in VR is approachable or even appealing to the vast majority of humans. Prices for headsets are still high, we’re still playing mostly tethered to a computer or console (both literally and figuratively), and cool experiential things like haptic suits are still quite a ways away.
Long story short, the VR fitness industry has a long way to go until it begins trending in any real way. And I mean the entire industry, not just Beat Saber.
While VR fitness gaming and the broader concept of VR-for-fitness was certainly taken to greater heights in 2018 with the permeation of Beat Saber and Creed: Rise to Glory, there are still plenty of gamers, athletes, and Internet trolls alike who publicly swear off VR fitness gaming on principle. Some even go as far as to discourage others from trying it out.
And with that context in mind, I’m not one to argue against anybody with a serious physical ailment. If you’re sick or injured, understandably that stops you from performing physical activity. I believe that that’s a subjective thing, though VR has actually proven useful to help people in some cases.
But I will argue that if you’re spreading claims that active VR gaming is illegitimate, ineffective or a plain waste of time, then you are horribly, objectively misinformed.
Here are the five basic excuses that I see repeatedly across the Web, and here’s why each are full of crap.
1. “I’ll ruin my HMD with sweat”
Ask any one of the literal millions of people currently playing Beat Saber on a daily basis if sweat is stopping them from enjoying their experience.
Sure, you might hear the occasional freak story about a defective unit getting fried by water damage. But ask yourself whether a physically intense game like Beat Saber would even be allowed on the Oculus and PlayStation stores, let alone sell as many copies as it has, if sweat posed a real threat to the vast majority of headsets in circulation.
The greater likelihood is that you’ll hear far more complaints about sweat making things unpleasant for the next person playing the game with the same sweaty headset pad. That said, there are common preventative measures for that. So seriously, don’t let this be your excuse.
2. “Playing games in VR isn’t exercise”
Yes it is.
Well rather, it can be. Don’t paint with broad strokes here; not all VR games are active. That’s why I use terminology such as ‘active VR gaming’ to delineate between VR fitness gaming and everything else.
On the topic of what makes VR fitness gaming different: categorically, it induces rigorous activity involving physical exertion. And rigorous activity involving physical exertion is exercise. In fact, that’s how exercise is defined.
Now granted, there’s a really good argument here that plenty of people miss. But it’s not about VR being poor for exercise. It’s about VR being poor for resistance exercise. And those who make that argument have a good point.
And luckily for us, there’s already a solution inherent in the usage of weighted gear. Putting on a weighted vest, weighted anklets and wrist weights can augment aerobic exercise in VR and provide some resistance training. Weighted gear can be dangerous if mishandled, so I wrote a guide for that.
While not a home solution, Black Box VR is also solving this problem within gyms by providing a cable machine that runs solely within VR. It’s really cool, so you should check that out.
3. “Active VR games look boring”
The primordial era of VR gaming, aka 2017, left plenty of sour impressions in core gamers’ mouths about what VR fitness gaming entails. Hot Squat was quite literally the hottest game on the block, and The Thrill of the Fight was considered revolutionary. Fantastic workouts, but not always as much fun to watch from the player’s first-person perspective, and certainly not what you might have in mind for casual recreation.
Times are changing. More and more VR games are receiving support for enhanced first-person FOV cameras, which immediately make games more watchable as the outside viewer can get a better sense of what’s visible to the person wearing the headset. But also, VR games are simply becoming more fun.
4. “VR is too expensive”
This is one that I can empathize with. Price is a bigger problem that’s still stopping many, many people from getting into VR. That said, prices are just beginning to come down across the board. The standalone Oculus Quest, releasing in Q2 of 2019, will unlock 6DOF gaming for the masses of potential buyers who don’t have access to a nice gaming PC or a PS4. Meanwhile, the Oculus Rift dropped its MSRP by $50.
But how soon will the “VR is too expensive” problem go away? Well, this is really more of a question of VR as a commodity. How much do you value an Oculus Rift or an HTC Vive at its current market price? I’d argue that there’s value inherent to VR as a fitness tool. But price does not equal value, and whether VR is too expensive for you is ultimately contingent on how much you value it.
“Now we have the consumer launch, and we’re moving into this path of ubiquity by 2025 or 2045, depending on how things go,” said Kent Bye, host of Voices of VR, at VR NOW Con 2018.
On a universal scale, VR has some ways to go until it reaches the must-have status akin to smartphone ownership. But how much are you paying for aerobic classes at the gym? How much are you paying for the gym membership overall? What amount of time do you spend in commute? And do you feel a benefit from the social aspects of going to the gym?
These are all important questions to ask yourself when shopping for VR as a home fitness solution. VR is actually perfect for people who don’t enjoy the gym or don’t feel comfortable working out in public. You pay for it exactly once and it’s yours until it breaks down or until you replace it. If you’re sedentary, it gets you up and moving. Is that something you value enough to pay for?
5. “I don’t have time”
I tend to hear this one from people who are already invested in VR gaming and usually have a nice rig to game with. This is also a legitimate excuse, depending on where it’s coming from.
On one hand, you might regiment your lifestyle deliberately to where you already have a workout plan. This workout plan might give you the exact results you want on a regular basis. If so, good for you; don’t give that up.
On the other hand, you might also be outright lazy. If that’s the case, let’s call a spade a spade. You’re making an excuse just to avoid exercise, which we already agreed that active VR gaming is. Right? That’s not on the quality of active VR games, the people who play them or the developers who create them; that one’s on you.
VR fitness gaming is its own industry within several other coinciding industries, and it’s growing steadily with the popularity of 6DOF VR. But even so, there are people who can’t seem to understand why anybody would exercise in a VR headset. While that’s not necessarily their fault—VR being as esoteric and underdeveloped as it is—the narratives that these people are using to drive others away from active VR gaming err heavily on the side of inaccurate.
What concerns do you have about VR-for-fitness? Let us know in the comments.