The State of VR & The Future of UKRifter

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For those that have followed my channel for all these years, you will have noticed that in the last year my reviews have started to dwindle, I wanted to take a moment to explain the reason for this and my focus for the future. My reasons for the reduced content on my channel are multifaceted and for some it may trigger a small twinge of concern, but oddly “I can’t be arsed” doesn’t feature on this list.

1) ENTHUSIASM – Fundamentally, my channel and VR reviews have always been underpinned by one core value – authenticity. I have never been paid for my opinion. I have never promoted something that I didn’t think was deserving of recognition from the broader VR community. To have my opinion bought for cash would be a betrayal of the trust I have built with my core followers over many years. For every review I put out, I play many other titles that I didn’t enjoy at all.  For me the problem has been that the idiom of separating the wheat from the chaff doesn’t fit any more, it implies that the wheat is in abundance and the chaff would float away in the breeze, my search is closer to the act of panning for gold. The quantity of VR titles being released over the last year is inversely proportional to the general quality & imagination of the work. It is frankly depressing. Consumers are starting to notice this and the statistics are looking bad, the more glacial motion of business enterprise interest in VR is filling the gap, but for how long? For me, without inspiration, I cannot maintain my authenticity and integrity. So my reviews dry up and I have leaned toward streaming what I love to play while I sift away in the background, ad nauseum.

2) APPEAL – When it comes to Virtual Reality, you are reviewing the emotion of immersion in an environment and in that respect my opinion is subjective. I would argue that I absolutely have to be subjective in order that you can look at my face and see my enthusiasm, that you may empathise and enthuse with me. I also strongly believe that the objective, cookie-cutter reviewing techniques that you see on so many of the mainstream VR review channels are utterly sterile, vanilla flavoured and, far too often, paid opinion. Many people travel the world and eat at MacDonalds, because knowing what you are getting does feel safe and secure. The issue is that my methods don’t fit that templated approach, I am a wildcard by comparison and as a result I am of limited appeal to the companies of VR who would, ironically, rather pay for the vanilla review than risk a subjective opinion derailing their hashtag fuelled hype-train. Me, I have always held the interests of the VR consumer at my core, I hope that my recommendations of hardware and titles has helped many thousands of people, that has always been enough but sadly my appeal even there is dwindling due – with yet more bitter irony – to my lack of content.

3) PRIORITIES – I don’t talk about my work too much, but I am an Operations Director for a major US company. I love my job and have huge respect for my colleagues and the members of my organisation. My role absorbs a great deal of my time. People are often quite surprised that I have such a position, usually their surprise is around how I have found the time to build my channel. Well, apart from occasional stints as a scout leader and falling off bikes (usually into the cool embrace of a pint at my local pub), my evenings are often free. Well, they were. My family is my life, everything else is a smaller part of the pie.

Fig 1: Honest pie chart of how I spend my time.

My children are now becoming teenagers and want to stay up later and talk with their Dad about what is worrying them this week. If I were not there to do that then I would be an absentee father. Being a Dad is fundamentally the role I most identify with, as it should be. Parenting is not something you take on part time. Of course it’s important to maintain interests, being a parent isn’t martyrdom at the altar of procreation, but running a second life as an online character becomes a farcical exercise in vanity and narcissism. Right now my eldest particularly needs my support, life doesn’t get easier and a supporting arm to hang onto makes everything fine. I want to make sure my children have the stability and support that I didn’t always get. Thankfully my children love VR too and spending time together in RecRoom is not unheard of. In short, this important duty as a father has further encroached on my free time and will continue to advance.

Fig 2: My evenings when kids were younger

Fig 3: My evenings now kids are older

4) INSPIRATION – As previously mentioned, I am no longer motivated to blaze a trail into unknown regions of the metaverse, the paths are narrow, covered in weeds and the treasure is hard to find. Basically it has all become so incredibly formulaic and uninspiring. That is not to say that my enthusiasm for the technology has dulled. My interests have switched to focus on the life changing applications of this wonderful technology, the impact it will have on industry, on education, on leisure, on individual. The people behind the technology, the devs, the enthusiasts. It is this that inspires me. It is not sticking anuses on cat’s bottoms, shooting at endless waves of free unity assets or hitting cubes with sticks to the beat of terrible popular music.

So after that long and drawn out explanation, what does it mean for my future in Virtual Reality.

What I will be doing less:

  • Reviews of titles will be very infrequent. Example – I plan to review Windlands 2 because it’s 3 years in the making and I know and like the team. I will focus on these rare diamonds only.
  • Streaming on YouTube is likely to continue, but very late in the evening (UK) when the children are asleep and much less frequently due to my dwindling stamina. At time of writing I have not put on an HMD for 3 weeks, so if I am playing it is likely I will be streaming.
  • VRSpies. I am not sure this will happen. It is too much of a commitment, never say never.

What I will be doing more:

I am able to work on my articles and podcast in spare 10 minutes I have here and there. It fits into the tiny gaps in my life and I enjoy it. Most importantly I will be able to maintain the contact with the VR community we have built together.

So this is not the end, it’s just a change of focus, in fact it has been heading this way for over a year. So this is not one of those, “boohoo, I’m shutting my channel down” affairs, it’s just an acknowledgement that paths change, blown by the winds of life and I am happily taking a different route.

The audiobook version:

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