Virtual reality has slowly taken over the gaming industry in the past decade. In 2019, social media around the holidays was filled with videos of users trying this new technology out, with viral videos generating laughter over those who, while so lost in playing games with headsets on, they accidentally ran into furniture and walls. Virtual reality headsets allow for a 3-D viewing and gaming experience, transporting users directly into game settings where they can feel as if they are truly there.

Virtual reality technology utilizes computer-aided stimuli to create an immersive illusion of being present in a different setting – from grocery stores to fictional universes. The most common games to use this technology fall into action and role-playing categories, and often involve violence or shooting from the first person point-of-view. Virtual reality depends on headsets and other accessories, such as headphones, to appeal to users’ senses, which process the input as reality and send those signals to users’ brains. 

Because of this nature, virtual reality can cause unique, negative effects for users. Namely, the term “VR sickness” has been coined to describe a physical phenomena that affects virtual reality gamers. Symptoms similar to motion sickness, such as nausea, dizziness, and disorientation are experienced by those affected by VR sickness. This occurs because of mixed messages that the brain is receiving: while the user is sitting or standing still, their eyes are sending messages that they are doing the exact opposite. In addition, the pixel velocity, or speed at which the pixels are moving across one’s field of vision, confuses players and can cause them to feel ill. The speed of these pixels is usually different to the speed of the player, and can create a sensation of falling or movement even if the player is standing still in the game.

With the power to seemingly transport us to different worlds, virtual reality is an impressive technological feat. However, the nature of this technology can be dangerous. In addition to negative physical effects, virtual reality gaming addictions can arise. Offering such an immersive experience, virtual reality can rope in users to a point where they cannot distinguish between face-to-face reality and a virtual world. Addictive behavior is exhibited in some users, which has negative effects on mental and physical health. 

Researchers have begun to realize the severity of gaming addictions, and concerns especially over how gaming affects developing brains have arisen. In some cases, virtual reality only adds to the negative long-term effects extensive gaming can have. This raises the question: is virtual reality becoming too real?