Gaming with a Grain of Salt: Playing in VR


The first time I played around with Virtual Reality (VR) games was with a $7 piece of cardboard I picked up on a whim. It ran by strapping my iPhone to the front and was constantly just a little bit blurry. It was still exciting and new, but the only person still entertained by day two was my toddler niece who didn’t seem to understand the elephants weren’t really in front of her. I chalked up VR gaming to be the next Google Glass or hoverboard: a neat idea, but nothing like it was advertised in “The Jetsons.”


When a friend pulled out one of the “fancy” Oculus Rift VR headsets at a party, I wasn’t expecting much better. We played “The Plank Experience” where you have to convince yourself to “jump” off the top of a building in a cartoon world. Honestly, after the initial shock of being immersed in a 360-environment, it wasn’t too mind blowing. I couldn’t imagine spending over $400 on a new machine that could only play that kind of short-term entertaining games.


But, my entire view on VR gaming changed when I got to be a bear. A friend who recently purchased his own Oculus Rift convinced me to give it a second try, and I was instantly a fan when I discovered there was more to VR than pretending to jump.  Through the wonders of modern technology, I got to put on some glasses and become a brown bear in Norway. I wasn’t just along for the ride, though; my choices about where to go on the river decided if I found enough salmon, got into a fight with a momma bear, and survived a wolf attack.


And that was just the beginning of my VR adventure. I got to play out a personal fantasy and be Belle in Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast” during the dancing dinnerplate scene. I got to survive a legitimate nightmare, trapped in a bed while a demon made objects shoot at my head and vanish. One drawback of the VR experience: the instinct to cover your eyes does nothing to help stop seeing the scary monsters. Finally, I took a gondola tour of Venice, complete with a charming old professor who had fun facts about every building we passed. It was almost as good as the original, with the added bonus of not having to purchase a plane ticket to see it.  


Of course, the major drawback of VR is that it is just about as bougie as gold-leaf caviar. No matter how much fun it was, I will not be spending the hundreds of dollars on a headset, let alone the cash to change my little laptop into something capable of supporting one. Judging by the rate of VR popularity, it probably won’t be too long until someone releases a good headset for even the cheapest and most casual player. But in the meantime, if you have a rich friend or roommate, I would support some mild peer pressure on them to buy one you can try.