“Since I was about eight years old, I have watched an anime series called, ‘.hack//Sign,’ and in the anime they envisioned an MMORPG through headsets much like the ones that Sony has designed,” said Millersville University student Vassana Mee, an avid gamer and anime viewer.
“I am 21 and never would have thought it would come into actual existence,” she adds.
The headset that Mee is referring to is Project Morpheus from Sony. Project Morpheus is a next generation virtual reality headset that immerses a player into the game by having them look up, down, and around, instead of just using the right analog stick of a game controller. The player has a first-person view of what is happening around them.
“I believe that because we are using our minds and head movements to control the game, we will come to connect with the game on a different level of consciousness,” Mee adds.
Not everyone is as enthusiatic as Mee. DeSales University of Pennsylvania Communications professor Karl Babij, who studies gender and video game culture, is slightly more skeptical of the potential of the new gaming technology. He notes that gaming headsets in the past have had trouble becoming a mainstream device.
“I think from what I’ve seen, [Project Morpheus will] be good,” he says. “It has potential, but ultimately, people aren’t going to jump into it.”
The headset is particularly exciting for players of MMORPGs, or Massive Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games. An MMORPG is a video game in which a large number of players participate online simultaneously. Examples of such games, like EverQuest Next and War Thunder, are already in development to work with Project Morpheus.
While some players like Mee are excited, there has been some controversy. At Tokyo Game Show (TGS) 2014, a video game conference in Tokyo, Sony showed off a controversial game that was in development.
The issue with the game, Summer Lesson, is that you, the player, are put in a Japanese girl’s room and you get to interact with her and the room’s environment. It may have been an interesting way to show off the technology of the Project Morpheus headset, but it also posed an issue that a lot of girl gamers are struggling with in games.
Mee says that the game objectifies a woman and encourages the fetishization of Asian women. She says this game could have a negative impact on the struggle that many Eastern Asian women face when dealing with their unrealistic portrayal in video games.
“I find this game extremely sexist,” Mee says.
Professor Babij suggested that, unfortunately, the game is tame compared to many games and movies nowadays. He says that games are more male-oriented and that producers and game makers are largely male.
“In 2006, Rapelay, a game came out and it’s far more disturbing,” Babij says.
Many gaming news sites echoed Mee’s concern with the game, Summer Lesson. A gaming site, Japan Trends said, “It certainly lives up to the stereotype of Japanese male gamers being perverts and is bound to be a big hit with a specific demographic.”
The good news is that Sony has pulled the plug on the project although they have not said why.
The Project Morpheus gaming headset is taking a lot of heat from this cancelled game project, but the future still looks bright for the hardware.
“I think that Project Morpheus has good potential and with the right type of games that utilize it correctly, it could take off,” says Professor Babij.
Babij says, on the other hand, that without a strong catalog of titles for the device, the gaming headset would fail.
Mee by contrast expresses optimism and excitement about the project. “I have always dreamed up ways to connect to a virtual world in which our consciousness could manifest itself into a completely different character.”