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"We're very close to having the first death in VR"

Cloudhead Games' Denny Unger warns devs of the responsibility that comes with VR's immersive power

The emergence of virtual reality is one of the most exciting trends in contemporary game development. The unparalleled sense of immersion it affords points toward a whole new era of interactive entertainment, but that potential carries significant responsibilities.

In a Q&A session following a VR panel at Unite 2014 in Seattle, a member of the audience followed up the discussion around the incredible power of persuasion that VR developers can now harness with a provocative question: What are the "VR evils" that pioneering developers should avoid?

At first, the panel's responses were measured, but Denny Unger, creative director at Cloudhead Games, met the query head on. Unger reminded the audience that VR demands a greater consideration for the well-being of the player.

"I have some pretty strong views on this," he said. "The low hanging fruit of VR, to me, is horror games that purposely do jump scares. We're very close to having the first death in VR - I firmly believe that.

"When the commercial version comes out, somebody is going to scare somebody to death - somebody with a heart condition or something like that. It is going to happen. Absolutely."

While this may seem sensationalist at first glance, Unger was entirely sincere in his intent. If the supreme evocative power of VR is now beyond doubt, it follows that it poses certain risks to users with fragile mental or physical conditions.

"I hope that all developers are taking that seriously," Unger continued. "If you haven't had the dev kit in your hands, you need to get it in your hands to understand the weight of that consequence. You really could kill somebody. You really could. We all have to be mindful of that."

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Matthew Handrahan

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Matthew Handrahan joined GamesIndustry in 2011, bringing long-form feature-writing experience to the team as well as a deep understanding of the video game development business. He previously spent more than five years at award-winning magazine gamesTM.

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