My journey in gaming started at a young age, and I have been playing games of all kinds for such a long time. This being said a lot of my experience has been across multiple platforms, with a large focus on pc gaming as it were.
Besides the new generation that has just come out (XSX, PS5); I have played on every playstation, every xbox, every nintendo console, and even most of the gaming handhelds of the 2000's (excluding any Sega stuff). This is important to note because honestly it was polymathic in my approach to gaming. I was curious about all of them, about the hardware, what games they had, and what could those all do uniquely.
For example the gamecube had an add on that allowed you to play gameboy advance games on your tv, and so did the console prior to it as well.
Innovations in Technology
Perhaps this started with the Wii in particular, but I grew more and more interested in what could be done to make gaming more immersive. The Wii was the first mainstream motion controller based system on the market. Everything else that came before it rather failed at gaining market traction.
Despite this both the PS3 and Xbox 360 tried their own hand at it too. With the former having PS Move, and the latter having Kinect. The Kinect was really cool, and even it's successor on the Xbox One too, but most games failed to use the motion control hardware successfully.
The PS Move didn't really gain much attention either until the next generation, with the PS4 and it's own VR Headset. Mind you this is after Oculus Rift made waves from Kickstarter.
There was a time where I remember obsessing over finding the most immersive gaming experience. I spent countless hours looking on kickstarter and Google to find tech that would increase my immersion while gaming. Mind you my Laptop was gaming oriented, but not the strongest so I couldn't even play most games at the time. However that didn't stop me!
For one back in 2012 curved monitors were super rare, most people didn't even know about their benefits, let alone have one. It came down to a choice of curved or ultrawide (nowadays you can both). In hindsight I may have enjoyed the latter more, but I had gotten a curved monitor. This is because my tv I had got surged when a breaker box blew, and as a teenager I couldn't use the renters insurance we had. Regardless it gave me an opportunity to experience it, and really it did lessen eye strain. It almost gave a unique 3D feel to the games as well, which is hard to explain.
I'm really excited about this section because there was a lot of awesome tech that most people don't even know existed at the time, but it lead into some of the stuff we have now.
For one was Razer's Project Ariana
Where it took the game you were playing then projected it onto the wall behind your monitor and you. Dramatically increasing your peripheral vision, as well as overall screen space. Sadly it never came to be, but there has been similar projects by Microsoft (Xbox), and a couple of unique VR setups that remind me of it.
Another tech that caught my attention a lot, that I came close to buying was the precursor to Philips Hue, you know those cool RGB blubs you can get? Well that wasn't their first dip into the ambient lighting space. This was:
In that picture you have a subwoofer, two speakers, a rumble pad for your keyboard, and most interestingly two fans to blow on you like the game would feel like. Now the actually most interesting part are the speakers for at the top were LEDs that would change color based on the game.
Now from what I recall it only worked for less than a dozen games, as at the time the games need to have programming into them to send a signal to the lights. Whereas nowadays Philips Hue/Razer Chroma/ and all of the other brands ambient RBG; Can all now just do it at a system level for all media on the PC.
Ambient Lighting for TV
This section is a bit of a misdirect cause you can have this same thing for PC monitors too, but it became more popular cause of TVs. Now I will say AmbiScreen WAS FIRST, but since then many others have come out.
Where you plug in your HDMI from your console or whatever, into the box, then into the TV. Then the end result would display not only to your TV, but the LED strips you would install on the back of your screen. They would change color specifically to their region of the screen. This effect has been proven to increase immersion, and lessen eye strain.
Immersive Gaming Tools
Now we talked about lights, but what about your interactions? How do you interact with the games? Consider this, I was learning about all of this back when the first Oculus Rift came out, or even before it.
When that did it didn't have any controllers to pair with it like they do now, for people just simply used an Xbox 360 controller.
I was super into finding what sort of controllers could I use with that headset to achieve maximum immersion?
One came out called the Virtuix Omni.
A 360 degree treadmill to run in virtual space.
"Mad Genius Controllers"
Where they modified a controller to split in half for motion control, which I think was inspired by a Sony Patent. Honestly I think only one other controller in the past decade has used the same sonar tech, which was Razer's VR controllers. Meaning these were super unique, and in the gameplay videos for Skyrim had some super immersive motions. Everything was mapped out quite well, and could actually work on console, vs having it only on PC. Which at the time was what most companies did.
Here comes one of my favorite pieces from this time:
Okay this one is weird because they came with the Asus EEE PC, which was meant to be a professional work pc that could also play games. It was shaped like a Wii, and these controllers you see here are modeled after the Wii's Nunchuk controller.
I actually bought a pair of these, after waiting for a long time for them to go on sale on ebay.
I've tried VR motion controllers since getting them, and honestly even though these controllers came out 17 years ago, they still hold up today. *
Let me explain.
Firstly, the problems. They are limited to be used only with the software provided, which was made for a PC in the mid 2000s, so the resolution is literally a fourth of what we normally use. The software is janky, and you have three different modes that can get kinda confusing. Keyboard, game controller, and the right one can be an air mouse too. You had to set a standard for every game, and the game had to start from their software.
Secondly, the greats. Fits great in the hand, all the buttons feel tactile (big deal in this space), and the controls are fantastic if you can map them right.
Now when I say controller vs keyboard I mean how the computer will recognize the device, and I found that I could trick the system by having it open an emulator (which was really light and easy to close), then I could use the controllers in anything I wanted after that (as they were activated at that point).
I tried it out with Fallout3 or TF2, etc, and it was really interesting. The one problem came down to the fact that I needed to turn on the airmouse mode in order to look around. Which if I had a VR headset I wouldn't have to do!
The situation came to be known as the fight of the motion for me. This is because in order to use air mouse mode you had to turn off each controller's motion controls. Here is the deal, even though the Wii was awesome, these controllers had far more motion capabilities. You could punch, hook, up/down/left/right, and more IN EACH HAND. Meaning you could map out like 20 movements to keys, and have far more interactions with your games. This isn't even counting the buttons or analog stick.
I tried to get a friend to write me some custom drivers for them, just to get them to be recognized as a controller without using the software, but he moved. So if you know anyone let me know!
Why does this all matter?
Now I got a little excited with that last section there, but I don't get to talk about those as much! Since that time we have had at least half a dozen VR headsets come to market, and another half a dozen on the way. Each with interesting controllers, and unique feature sets.
However I think it is more than just VR, for you should be able to be immersed even outside the headset. I have three monitors now for my setup, which I find really cool. I hope that some day I'll be able to play on them more, as of now I am using them mainly for work.
This all matters because I had built my PC that I made PolyInnovator with BECAUSE I wanted to play Skyrim with mods to add immersion. My gaming life is what motivated me to progress forward, and then PolyInnovator had taken over. Although a later phase of this personal brand IS going to be centered around gaming. As it is a major part of my life.