Former Valve VR Dev: “VR Is Bad News. I Want Out.” Should We Heed the Warning?


As it stands today, virtual reality is the next “big frontier” in gaming. With projects as large in scope as the Oculus Rift and Project Morpheus going on, it’s hard to not be excited for what it all could bring to the gaming table. And yet, it seems as though not everybody is as jubilant about it as you may assume.

Former Valve VR contractor Fabian Giesen recently shared an e-mail he sent back in 2012 when he quit his first contract over at Valve:

Subject: I want out.

As the subject says, I would like to end my contract with Valve – preferably by
the end of the month, though I realize that’s probably too short of a notice.

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

So, at least as VR is concerned, while I find the tech interesting and
challenging, I am deeply ambivalent about what it leads to.

That is not the primary reason for this mail, but it certainly is a factor in
my decision.

It’s certainly a strongly-worded e-mail, one that Giesen notes is due to good familiarity and frequent contact with the recipient, as in he knows this individual personally, and that much is reflected in the message.

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  • aintwhatitlookslike

    I agree vr is a big waste of time Imo

  • Hates bad writers.

    It’s a fad like motion control was last gen, only difference is that even more people are dumb enough to fall for it. VR isn’t going to work, not for a long while. Get over it.

    • nonscpo

      It’s not a fad, someday it will be a thing, the only real question is when will it be a thing?

      • Hates bad writers.

        Someday, in about 100 years when we have the tech to truly support the expectations of the masses. Sorry kid, it’s a fad. Just like the Wii, just like the Move, and just like the Kinect. Keep believing all you want, it’s not going to make it a reality any time soon.

        • Arjun Yadav

          I’m sorry but I thought the wii was one of the most successful consoles ever & kinect in particular, before the launch of the iPad 2 was the most successful consumer electronic good

          • Hates bad writers.

            Oh it was great, it just doesn’t make the gimmick not a gimmick. They did it first and most successful. Not to mention the great games it had unlike Move or Kinect.

  • Kamille

    I wonder if people read before commenting.

    • Sticky Notes

      “That is not the primary reason for this mail, but it certainly is a factor in
      my decision.”

      So yeah. There was something else bothering him and this was his scapegoat. I wonder what the reason was. It sounds like it was something personal. Such as not being able to get along with co workers or something dramatic like that.

  • Eagles83

    The problem I have with his argument is that not everything needs to be multiplayer. I find forced multiplayer off-putting. You can have games designed for single player with VR or have non-VR multiplayer games. He is acting like going down this path will kill off the alternative.

  • Giul Xainx

    He fears that social interaction would resemble that movie surrogates.

    Maybe not the plot, but what people will eventually end up doing.

    His warning is that people will be more inclined to be nickled and dimed to death with digital upgrades to their persona.

    We should heed this warning because it may cause a lot of deaths due to immobility, and make people much more lazy.

    So games like second life, and playstation home should not be supported by vr.

  • REP

    I don’t see it anymore anti-social than playing a video game where your eyes are fixed on today’s TV screen. The ONLY difference is that in VR, you’re inside the screen (giving you better immerse experience) while in the other, you’re playing outside the screen. But playing outside the screen is just as anti-social because when you play the game, you don’t really talk to anyone that much anyway. So I don’t see such a big deal.

    And I see that Oculus is now adding a internal camera where you can see outside the Rift.

  • EverAlwaysRealLife

    VR is a cool concept but I feel like a nerd if I ever had one of those…

    • GotNews4Ya

      The way they are implementing it.. People around you, see what you do.. on the screen, obviously less immersive, but they will be able to understand why you are doing what you are doing.. etc.. and With the amount of people getting into the “let’s play” fad.. I think it won’t have too much of a problem catching on, obviously that’s my opinion, but I know sometimes I don’t mind sitting back and watching my buddy play for a bit, or my girlfriend game for a bit while I take a breather. I know they enjoy watching me play all the same, and I doubt it would be any different for them.. intact VR would probably appeal to a lot more casual people who come over.. If you have a VR Headset like Oculus Rift with a Powerful PC or Morpheous and a PS4, EVERYONE will try it.. (since you got it.. you’ve bought it.. I am by no means saying everyone will buy it..)

      Could lead to more sales, and the applications it could be used for as well are brilliant:
      Need to find out where that place is, know the area but not exactly where its at? Jump into google maps on your Morpheous / Rift and check it out in VR..
      Concert Sold out? Get on your VR Headset and watch it like you’re there.. With other people on VR Headsets you can interact with!

      So much can happen.. the future looks sweet.

  • jacksjus

    This guy quit his job while Zuckerberg spent $2B on it. Somebody has to be wrong and I have a hunch who.

    • GotNews4Ya

      He quit his job based on his beliefs.. not because he believed that the Device would fail.. He just didn’t believe in working on a device that would allow humans to lose interaction between each other. I complete understand his choice and why he made it..

      It doesn’t make him less knowledgeable, or wrong. It just makes him stand for what he believes in, whether we find it a just cause or not.. He does, and we need more people willing to do what he did in this world / country to do things like that.. That may be hard, and might just set you back, but in the end.. make you feel all that much better about yourself and at least you know that you did what you thought was right. In the end.. a conscience is way better than money.

  • Wayland

    I understand what he’s trying to explain, and this Matrix-like future doesn’t cheer me up too.
    Open-world online games without precise goals and with heavy grinding system and social interaction can suck in millions of people. I know it, because I see this stupid grinding free-to-play mobile games, which have found huge audience all aroud the globe.

    And with VR they’ll get far prettier, more expensive and immersive. I love immersive games; interactive VR movies without cutscenes can be extremely cool, and I wait for their forthcoming. But another side of VR – Facebook combined with Sims into a huge MMORPG scares me. Because it leads directly to the world that Wachowski brothers have depicted in their hit movie.

  • Guest

    Morpheus will fail miserably from the start. OR will fail as well, only later as it will garner a lot of support from the PC community until they realize nobody bought the damn thing.

  • Dirkster_Dude

    I see even less reason for V.R. than I do a 3-D or IMAX movie experience. First, you have to consider does someone want to put something that close to your eye or wear on your head like a hat? How heavy is it? What are the health concerns? Second, the social aspect does seem to be limited, but I was already at Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter being even more useless. I mean there great if you want to share information, but not actually all that great if you want to socialize. V.R. unless designed right would have the same limitations. Third, all the gadgets, gizmos, doodads and whatchamacallits are too expensive. Maybe when they come down in price more people can try it out and provide real feedback as opposed to Google Glass which costs what $2,000?