One of video games’ big breakthrough moments came in the early seasons of House of Cards, when consummate politician Frank Underwood sat down and booted up Call of Duty during an episode. It didn’t seem silly or forced; if anything, it was just the 21st century version of watching TV. This is the holy grail of media: to become unremarkable. So if you believe virtual reality is the next great medium, you’re in for an uphill battle, because watching people use it is still kind of hilarious.
President Barack Obama wearing a VR headset isn’t noteworthy in the way Obama using a BlackBerry was — that was a story about a technologically stodgy institution catching up with the rest of the world. No, it’s noteworthy because it’s the president of the United States wearing the equivalent of giant opaque ski goggles in the Oval Office, except that those ski goggles also show him another world. (Technically, they’re showing Obama himself, starring in a recently released short film about national parks.)
In fact, it’s not even Obama’s first (or funniest) appearance in a VR headset, and I’m posting it anyway. That’s partly because, as noted above, it still makes me smile. But it’s partly because despite the inherent humor, it might be a step forward.
For one thing, the next-generation Gear VR is more tasteful than its glaringly white predecessor. For another, it actually makes sense for Obama to be wearing it. It’s harder to have funny photoshop contests when everyone knows perfectly well what he’s is looking at, and they can see a version of the same thing just by visiting Facebook. And to be fair, passive mobile VR is still significantly more dignified than flailing around in an HTC Vive. Still, with a few months left in Obama's term, who knows — maybe we’ll get to see him throwing office supplies in Job Simulator before he leaves office.