Fabian Giesen’s exit letter

Ex-Valve contractor Fabian Giesen’s exit letter:

Part of this has to do with the direction of the project. With AR, there’s a variety of information display/visualization applications, all of which are at the very least interesting and could turn out to be tremendously empowering in various ways. The endpoint of VR, on the other hand – all engineering practicalities of first aiming for a seemingly easier goal aside – seems to be fundamentally anti-social, completing the sad trajectory of entertainment moving further and further away from shared social experiences. (As I have mentioned multiple times, I find the limited, formalized, abstracted and ultimately alienated social interactions in most forms of online gaming to be immensely off-putting).

Later, offering context:

And having an immersive virtual environment – hey, MMORPGs even without VR get people to sink lots of time into them, and if anything that’s probably gonna be more pronounced in the VR version – that is set up to, ultimately, generate
ad revenue (and hence prioritize the needs of the advertisers over the desires of its users) is just an inherently gross concept to me.

All these trends have been there for a long time. I used to be hypothetically
antsy about a major ad-run operation going long in VR. Now that Facebook has bought Oculus, that’s not a hypothetical anymore.

Now, I’m writing this just as the kerfuffle about Facebook running psychological experiments on their users is ebbing. This is not surprising; if you’re trying to maximize engagement (and thus ultimately ad revenue), these are the kinds of
trials you run, because you want to know what to show to people.

I still find it fascinating that three major companies are investing heavily in a novelty space.

Regarding social network involvement: Within the past few months, the increased rate of social networking notifications and ads has become more apparent. I don’t need to know if a friend just posted a status update, I don’t need to know that two games journalists I follow are discussing the WWE, and I don’t need to be asked if I know somebody with a random notification.

Don’t get me wrong. There will certainly be stellar avenues for VR in the forms of education, sports, and accessibility. Relinking my thoughts on VR piggybacked on Andrew House’s comments about Sony’s plans for the space.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading Ready Player One. I am not ready to live it.

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