What better way to escape the confines of your own home than with virtual reality (VR)? There are games, apps, and videos you can immerse yourself in, but is a VR-ready computer the same as a standard gaming computer? Let’s find out what VR gaming equipment you need to start playing games.
PC or no PC?
The first thing to note about what you need to start VR gaming is that there are headsets that don’t need to be attached to a computer to run. Some use a smartphone, like Samsung’s Gear VR, while others, like the Oculus Quest 2, can operate as standalone units.
Think about what you want out of your VR gaming experience: do you want to game on the go? Or are you looking for a truly immersive experience in your living room? Something else to consider is that higher-quality VR headsets are both more expensive and more likely to require you to plug them into a computer, which means that your computer will also need to be able to run VR games.
Space, the final frontier
VR gaming often involves moving around and exploring the virtual world in which the game is set. This means that you will need a clear, open space where you can play your games, so you don’t trip over the pile of books which you’ve meant to read for the last 6 months, your desk chair, or even your cat.
If you choose a VR headset meant for a smartphone, make sure that it’s compatible with the smartphone you have or that it comes with a smartphone that will work with it. Samsung’s Gear VR only works with their smartphones, including the S6, S7, S8, and S9. If you don’t have a Samsung phone but still want to play VR games with your smartphone, Google Daydream works with Android and iPhones, so that might be a better option for you.
Be aware that using your smartphone with a VR headset may drain the battery, so this may not be suitable for long-term VR or even long VR sessions.
Consoles and VR
Sony was first to the console VR scene, providing PlayStation 4 (PS4) and PS4 Pro options that worked alongside the standard controller. Sony has also announced a VR system for the PlayStation 5, so if you already have a preference for games consoles over gaming PCs, there are options in this area. There are no plans for a VR headset for Microsoft’s Xbox consoles, so if you want to play VR games on a console, PlayStation is the best option as there are great games available and it’s not too expensive, even if you have to buy a PS4 or PS4 Pro as well as the headset.
VR for PC
If you want to play VR games on a PC, you need to make sure that it is powerful enough to handle it – with the best VR gaming equipment. That means that you need at least 8GB of RAM or memory; a graphics card, or GPU, at least as powerful as an Nvidia GeForce 1060; a processor, or CPU that is at least as good as an Intel i5; and a significant number of USB ports for the peripherals (keyboard, mouse) and headset.
When thinking about what games you might play in VR on PC, the online computer game store Steam has an entire section dedicated to VR games. There’s a wide range of games available, including rhythm games like Beat Saber, survival games like No Man’s Sky, and first-person shooters like Half-Life: Alyx, so there’s plenty of options to suit your personal tastes.
All you actually need to start playing VR games is a VR headset, and they can be standalone, attached to your mobile phone, your games console, or your computer. Bear in mind that the highest quality headsets are the most expensive and the most likely to need to be run on a computer. There are options for people with different budgets, needs, and desires, so do your research and find the VR gaming equipment that suits you best.