I remember, before I ever tried Virtual Reality, I would often beat myself up about not having found a true passion. I would look at people with extreme envy whenever they had a hobby (big or small).
Then it happened… I experienced something that changed me; that had me obsessing over it for most of my waking hours. It’s a weird thing too: only after about a year of my VR escapades did I truly realize that this was my hobby, that I was a VR enthusiast. I thought I would know straight away… but love is a mysterious thing man.
That was almost 4 years ago now. (Dam… haven’t really thought about that till writing this… how far we have come…)
So yeah… I’m now the resident VR guy here at Retro, and have been asked to share some of my thoughts, experiences and insights in a blog post.
When I asked what about VR specifically I should write about I got told that I can write about anything…
Anything is a quite a hard term to face up to. In a world where information is at everyone’s fingertips, be it simple, funny, honest, questionable.. “Anything” is a horde of mounted barbarians charging toward the camera in slow motion, and I’m the cameraman.
While pondering these past few weeks on what the hell I’m gonna write about, I had achieved a goal that I’ve been working towards for the past couple of months.
Get prepared to be inspired kids: I finished all the VR games that I had bought but not yet played. *Pause for your amazement and inspiration to set in….
Ok I joke, so in terms of awesome achievements this is quite a crappy thing to be happy about.
Someone else — “I managed to save enough money to put me through school, and become super disciplined in something that helps me live a healthy, long, fulfilling life. Have you got any goals or ambitions you’ve achieved? ”
Me — “Err… I just finished all the video games that I bought…”
This was however, quite a relieving thing for me. I had become a victim to sales, steam sales to be exact. Every time I read about a new VR game that people were liking, I would add that game to my steam wishlist. Eventually my wishlist had about 60+ games in it, and Steam, the sneaky bastards, would notify me every time one of the games would go on sale. Oooh, this game is going for a steal! … 80% off!! I have to get it before it’s too late, I would think. Eventually this led to me having over 75 VR games that I had purchased in my library, that I had never played.
I can’t remember what exactly snapped me out of this shopping frenzy. I think I started feeling like I was collecting games instead of playing them; that, and I was spending more money than anyone should on video games. So I gave myself an ultimatum: I can only buy a new game once I’ve played every VR game in my library.
Once the rules were in place I started chipping away at my list in alphabetical order. It took me a couple of months to finish all of it.
From diving to the bottom of the ocean surrounded by hundreds of glowing jellyfish, to flinging myself around floating islands Spiderman style with my friends from across the world. I was living in worlds straight out of a fantasy novel.
Out of all of these games, there were 3 experiences that really stood out to me, and highlighted just how far virtual reality can impact our lives.
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This game/simulator had me changing transmission fluids, replacing car tires, and repairing broken gear boxes. Every time I completed one job I would get some cash, that would vary based on how good of a job I did. Screwing on a bolt too tight = less money. The more money I got the more tools I could buy, to make different repairs on cars.
I left the game with the belief that VR is an extremely powerful medum to teach us how to do nearly anything. Imagine a world without physical limitations, where you could practice heart surgery over and over again… Imagine a person bound to a wheelchair rehearsing his preflight checks, so that he nails his flight exam in a week, or an upcoming kid trying to decide if the career path of a dentist is really what she would like to do.
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The Invisible Hours:
Imagine watching a Sherlock Holmes mystery story unfold right in front of your eyes. You can’t change the way the story unfolds, but you can follow the individual actors around a mansion as you try to piece together the who, what and why someone killed Nikola Tesla.
These days we are drowning in Netflix shows, and bored by the big explosions from movies. We have seen too much of the same formula! Virtual Reality performances like this are a truly refreshing approach to storytelling, and I hope to experience more soon.
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Let me set the scene: you are in an old WW2 submarine, the rooms are cramped, the air is scarce, and you are being hunted by other ships of the ocean. Don’t worry though: it’s not just you! I was playing with my friends (who also have VR) online, they were on the submarine with me, so if we drowned, we drowned together.
What made this game stand out to me is it has truly connected me and my friend in the USA. Even though we are on the other side of the planet, we were seeing each other in the same space, and working together to load up torpedoes, avoid depth charges, sit in agonizing silence as other ships tried to ping us……*ping……..*ping…….BOOOOM!!!!
“AHHHH!!!! Grab the repair kit they found us!!”
“Where’s the repair kit?”
“I think it might be under water… we are gonna DIE!!!!”
Man, we had some truly terrifying experiences together, and yet we also had some amazing triumphs. Having one of us looking through the periscope directing where we should point the ship, another down in the torpedo room ready to pull the fire switch when given the order, then waiting as the other describes the torpedoes cruise towards the target…. “It Hit!!!!!”
Video games have let people from around the world experience some amazing things, but experiencing these in VR together, truly breaks a boundary of presence that we so crave, especially during these pandemic times.
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So there we have it.
A ton of sweat, some tears, and some very confused dogs that watch me dance around the room by myself, not knowing that I am living a life of imagination and impossibilities.
I will leave you with a quote from a pretty smart guy:
“The only source of knowledge is experience” — Albert Einstein