A few days ago, I got an offer to try out someone’s PS VR headset, and I happily accepted. I don’t know what I was expecting. Maybe I wanted to be like the people in these commercials, being completely drawn into another “reality” that makes me feel exhilarated to the near-ecstatic extremes shown above. What I got instead was a cool, but ultimately gimmicky, experience.
To be fair, I wasn’t in the most immersive environment. The headset mostly covered me, but there was a spot from the bottommost part of my peripheral vision where light crept in from the real world. Not only that, but I was in a room with about eight other people, consisting of chatting adults and loud kids. And then there was my dad, who, as typical, would poke me at different parts, talk loudly over me so I couldn’t hear the game, and just be a general nuisance overall. (I still love you, Dad. Happy Father’s Day!)
This was also not only my first time playing in VR; It was my first time playing a PS4 at all. Even though I’d played previous iterations of the PlayStation with the similar button layout before, it had been so long that it was hard for me to remember which button was which, especially when you can’t look down at your controller. (Except for the times when your controller was in Virtual Reality with you. That was cool.)
I played a few games, some of which I remember, and some of which I don’t. The first game I played was Thumper, which is not a game centered around the adorable rabbit from Bambi but around being a not-at-all cute bug... thing rolling across this fast-moving track to trippy scenery and music. It’s a rhythm game, but not like any I’ve ever played or even heard of. It was probably the best game that I played in VR, just because it didn’t boast that it was a VR game and stuff itself with gimmicks. Instead, it was just a good game that happened to be playable in VR to add to the immersion.
The next game that I “played” wasn’t really a game at all. I set aside the controller and was lowered deeper and deeper in an underwater cage until I was toyed with by a shark who almost ate me but then [spoilers?] got owned by a falling rock. I won’t deny that being underwater with all of the different sea creatures was beautiful, but because it was more of a simulation than a game, the danger with the shark felt completely without weight. Maybe if I were to play Resident Evil 7 VR, I would feel more uneasy, but as it stands, that was the only VR game that I played that attempted to frighten me, and it failed.
The next game I played was Gnog. I love puzzle games, and Gnog is all about tactile interaction, but the game just wasn’t clicking with me, and I didn’t have the right environment for me to muse over it for a long period of time. For that reason, it’s hard for me to pass judgement of it either way. Like Thumper, however, it didn’t rely on its existence as a VR game and instead presented itself as a game that just happened to be on VR and work well on it.
The final game that I played was another that I don’t remember the name of. I was in control of a mech, and I was flying through space and then jumping over planets. I played the game for all of three minutes before I had to return to reality, but before then I started getting a little queasy, even though I hadn’t felt sick at all in any of the previous games that I’d played. I quickly realized that the catalyst for my slight motion-sickness was when I moved the camera. It creates this dissonance because your brain knows it your perceived reality shouldn’t be shifting if your head doesn’t, and that must make it unstable, at least for me. Once I realized that, I didn’t touch the right stick, and the queasiness stopped.
All in all, I enjoyed my time with VR, even if it was a little less than ideal. It’s a neat concept that I hope means that all games, from indie to AAA, will be ported to it alongside Xbox One and PlayStation 4. Games like Resident Evil 7 and the recently announced VR ports of Fallout 4 and Skyrim are promising starts to working towards that reality, if you will.
Virtual Reality is a piece of hardware that’s in the N64 and original PlayStation era in terms of grasping the capabilities of this new tech. This means that this is an incredibly exciting time, with new ideas being discovered almost daily, most bad, a few revolutionary.
As it stands today, however, it is for only the hardcore enthusiast. For all others, including myself, let’s wait for the guinea pigs to figure it out first.