TIME magazine has just released the cover to their latest issue. The cover story is about Virtual Reality, a technology which has been making waves in the industry for the last couple of years. Oculus Rift VR, the industry leader of VR technology, was bought by Facebook last year for $2 billion dollars. With so much attention, and so much money being spent on virtual reality technology, it’s no surprise that a publication like TIME magazine would eventually have a cover story about it.
Here is the cover in question:
What should have been a watershed moment for VR technology has instead turned into, quite frankly, an embarrassing situation. It needs to be said that this cover is NOT photoshopped… that’s the actual cover TIME magazine put in newsstands. Also, that isn’t any random person either on the cover either. That is the CEO of Oculus Rift, Palmer Luckey… with a VR helment… on a beach… looking completely and utterly ridiculous.
Though print media is dying a slow death and has in many ways become a relic in our modern world, TIME magazine does still carry some influence with people. A cover like this doesn’t exactly make the nascent technology look appealing to those who don’t know anything about VR. In fact, a cover like this just plays to stereotypes which are, quite frankly, outdated and insulting.
While it’s true that Virtual Reality is a hard concept to explain to people without actually getting them to try the technology themselves, there are so many other ways that TIME could have gone about depicting VR. Or at least, other ways that wouldn’t make the technology, and its creator, appear like a joke. Did the cover really need to have Luckey jumping into the air and looking like a buffoon? Who is honestly going to see this and say “Hey! That looks like fun! I want to try that.” The answer: absolutely no one. In fact, it will have the opposite effect.
In case you may not know, I’ve been very skeptical about VR technology in the past. Though I can see its potential, it isn’t necessarily something that I feel will enhance my personal video gaming experience. I’m happy playing in front of a Television like I always have. Why am I so worked up about this cover if I don’t have any investment (emotional or monetary) in VR? Because of what this cover represents and propagates.
A cover like this plays on the the idea that gamers are pudgy, fat white guys; social outcasts who shun the light of the outdoors and instead flock to devices which deliver them from an actual reality to a virtual one. This is obviously not true. It may surprise TIME to find out that people who play video games come from all walks of life. They are folks who come from diverse backgrounds, and who have various beliefs, values and ideals. They are not one homogeneous group. TIME has proven just how out of touch it, and similar dinosaur media, have become when they depict gamers in such a light.
It’s hard enough to convince people that VR technology is not only a viable and fun way to play video games, but that it has other applications that can be used in the fields of medicine, engineering, education, and so much more. While VR technology will find a place within the gaming industry, covers like this do more harm than good, not only to prototype technology, but to a segment of people who are no longer the social misfits they may have been in the past.