August 05, 2016
Let’s talk about VR for a minute.
Once upon a time in the 90s, a younger me walked in to Circle Center Mall in downtown Indianapolis and went to the arcade. After scoping out the arcade for a little bit, he saw a weird looking cylindrical platform with a ring about three feet up, and inside this was a person with a headset on, holding two controller and spinning around. The person seemed to be enjoying it, so I had to try.
Then I stepped in.
I was transported to the inside of a very low polygon representation of a tank, where I was driving around something that wishes it could have been from Tron shooting at other triangular tanks. It was really something, and I had to play it again.
That same game popped up in a few other places like Block Party (remember Block Party? Blockbuster’s arcade?), and it was always fun. I’d play it when I could. I didn’t know the concept at the time, but the game was immersive enough to blow my mind.
Fast forward to the later 90s. Indianapolis actually got a store dedicated to virtual reality. A little shop in the strip center at 96th and Allisonvillewas covered on the news one morning, and I begged to go there. Somehow I tricked my mom to take me (I couldn’t drive yet), and I played Wolfenstein in 3D. It was simple – tilt up and down only as I remember – but it was still really something, certainly blowing those little polygons out of the water.
I’d all but forgotten about it for the next 15 years or so when I came across the HTC Vive. I’ve known about consumer VR, choosing to dodge the Oculus Rift because of their stance on Mac gaming and ownership by Facebook. But then I played a Vive.
As the screen comes on, I find myself standing in a pure white room, when the floor starts to open up around me and panels flip the way they do in Portal. As if I hadn’t yet found this immersive enough, I was standing inside one of my favorite games, face to face with a floating personality core.
Not playing one of my favorite games. Inside of it. It’s that good.
I knew I was going to love VR when I took off the headset for the first time and forgot where I was. So far since having a Vive, I’ve gone swimming with a whale, driven a floating hovercraft shooting at strangers from behind walls, played paintball and racquetball and basketball with folks from around the world, and taken a lightsaber from R2D2 while standing under a landing Millennium Falcon.
Immersive is really not the right word for it. Like, dizzy because you’re standing on a platform that appears to be moving, but your body knows you’re not. Ducking in the middle of my living room to hide behind a barrier and not get hit with oncoming paintballs. I don’t know if I was willing to be open to it or in need of an escape, but VR plays a note I didn’t realize needed to be played.
Admittedly I don’t play as much as I did the first two weeks, but I just spend 45 minutes play Rec Room with complete strangers and having a blast, and I can only imagine it’s going to get better. The tether to the computer will be made wireless, the headset lighter, the control sticks more feature rich. But I don’t even need to wait. It’s unbelievable right now. Maybe I just want to be impressed, or maybe I just had an inner teenager who was holding on to something he first played in the 90s, but whatever it is about this setup, it works for me, and I’m super glad I’ve experienced it.
I mean, I enjoyed it enough to stop and blog about it. It must really be something.