The VR craze just keeps getting bigger. We’re closer than ever to being completely immersed in virtual worlds, beyond just the glasses technology we’re using now, and it’s rather exciting to see the possibilities become reality. Unfortunately, I don’t think it’s something I’ll be able to properly partake in, at least not yet. Let me explain.
I’ve had a little time with VR so far. I’ve played a few games on the HTC Vive and I currently own a PS VR. My experiences have been a little mixed, though I’ve had some fun in the process of experimentation. So far the games that involve puzzle solving seem to be resonating with me the most, specifically games like Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes and SuperHyperCube. Beyond that, most of the games I’ve tried have been rather mixed experiences, and it comes down less to the concept of the game itself and more the interaction with it.
This is my biggest concern with VR right now, though it isn’t my only issue. Being stuck with a controller in each hand means interactions are forced into button presses and awkwardly pointing at icons, unless of course you have the new Oculus Touch or the HTC Vive controllers, both of which increase the level of interactivity but still involve similar control types. Until such time as haptic gloves become a real thing, or something similar to that, it’ll still feel un-real, an experience that’s limited. Which leaves starting into 3D space and exploring something that isn’t there, and I think that’s my biggest problem with VR right now.
When I’m sitting down on my couch, staring out into these virtual worlds, I don’t feel connected to anything I see. I feel uncomfortable, if nothing else, especially when menu screens go dark and leave me with nothing but empty space or a tiny icon for a few moments. Once a cockpit appears or a controller materialises in my hands, only then does that feeling of being in a tight, enclosed space pass just a tiny bit, but not enough for me to feel totally at ease with the situation in front of me.
I was super excited to try the Star Wars Battlefront VR Mission, for example. That just dropped today, but it didn’t take me long to get that uneasy feeling in my stomach as screen went white, only to have the jarring experience of an AT-AT appear right in front of me and towering over my tiny form. In any other situation I would have been excited, but in truth it scared the crap out of me. It’s a combination of not being able to properly move or interact with it, and the fact that being in a space where my real senses (sight and sound) are enclosed by heavy equipment, I feel like I’m stuck there and can’t do anything about it.
I’ve been in tight, enclosed spaces in real life and have never had a problem. You’ll never see me in a lift trying to get out as fast as possible. But if VR has taught me anything about myself, it’s that I’ve learnt to hate the dark all over again, and it really does feel like a tiny room with nothing to hold onto. The exception, of course, are the games that employ multiplayer interaction or keeping you occupied outside of the virtual space. It’s one reason why Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes is my favourite VR experience still, because it’s unlike anything else developed with VR in mind right now.
It might sound silly, in many ways it is, but truth be told I’m not ready for VR. It’s not at a place where interacting feels life-like, where knowing I’m still on my couch pulls me away from being inside an X-Wing. But it’s largely that unnerving sensation at the back of my mind and at the pit of my stomach, where I’m enclosed like a rat in a box waiting for the air holes to appear in front of me. I want to enjoy it and be immersed like nothing before, but for now I can’t get past that sense of claustrophobia. Hopefully that will pass one day.