At about noon on Wednesday, for the first time in a long time, I experienced waves of uncontrollable excitement as I tore into the packaging which concealed my first real VR (virtual reality) experience.
(By the way, in case you didn’t know, Elf is the best Christmas movie of all time. Yeah, I said it!)
Did you notice how excited Buddy the Elf was in the picture above? I was seriously that excited. Before that moment, I only had three interactions with VR. Two of them were from an off-brand VR company that works with cell phones. The other was because of the NFL draft. About two years ago, Draft Town came to Chicago, and the NFL setup booths where they allowed you to demo a VR unit. It was super cool because it placed you in a random NFL team’s locker room, and it even placed you inside of a huddle on a football field. Ever since that moment, I have been trying to imagine what a PSVR (PlayStation virtual reality) experience would be. Would it be similar to what I experienced at Draft Town? Does it make you sick like I’ve heard from so many others. Is it just a gimmick? Well gamers, I am here to tell you PSVR is an entirely new experience that was incredible. I believe it is something everyone needs to try at least once.
So, it has been five days since I jumped from this “plane” of existence plummeting head-first into an entirely new world unlike anything I have ever experienced. Penetrating the world of virtual reality was intimidating. You have to properly prepare for what is about to happen. Sometimes, you can’t simply just jump in. Similar to when an object enters the atmosphere of a new world, you might be met with resistance.
I personally had to take ibuprofen my first time because of a slight headache I developed (more on that later). However, once you get used to all of the motion sickness, and once your brain settles down and realizes you are still on earth, you are in for a real treat.
In order to curve my excitement and objectively look at PSVR, I want to give you my top takeaways from my week with PSVR.
Before we go any further, I need to inform you that nothing I am going to tell you in this post will be able to mirror the experience that is virtual reality. I’m doing my best to express how hyped I was before and after I picked up my PSVR headset, but virtual reality is something that you must experience for yourself to get the full effect. This can be a good and bad thing, which leads me into my first takeaway.
It SUCKS to be Player 2 (the person patiently waiting to use the headset)
So far for me, PSVR has been most enjoyable when you have someone to experience it with. It is so intriguing that you are going to want to tell someone about it. I’m not saying it isn’t fun to play solo, but I had a blast playing side-by-side with my fiancée. However, if it isn’t your turn to use the headset, you are subjected to hearing a bunch of “yoooooo”,”wooow”, and “this is amazing!” You are forced to look over at your friend as they smile and cheer with what looks like alien tech on their face. On the other hand, you must wait patiently and watch a TV screen full of mediocrity until they are done with the headset. I definitely think it was a great idea to show the headset’s screen on the TV screen, so other people in the room can also see what player one sees. But, it isn’t the same. Actually, it’s not even close. It prompts player two to sigh and probably think I don’t see the big deal. If you are player two, it reminds me of going somewhere really fun with a friend (like indoor skydiving), but you can’t participate because you broke your shoulder. So, you are forced to watch from the outside as your friend yells and giggles with glee.
In spite of this inconvenience, companies have the opportunity to do some really cool interactive things with player two as showcased with The Playroom VR game. In one of its mini-games, player two was used to inform player one of environmental details and NPC related information that can only be seen on the TV screen by player two. There was another really cool mini-game where player one uses the headset and takes control of a giant creature that is wreaking havoc on a defenseless city. Player two uses the TV screen and takes control of a character tasked to stop the beast. I enjoyed The Playroom VR because it gave Player two something to do instead of simply waiting for their turn to use the headset. I hope companies that are developing future IPs takes inspiration from the creativity showcased in The Playroom VR.
I hope that in the future two people can both use headsets together comfortably. Even if that’s possible right now, I can’t imagine how the experience can be anything other than a hot mess because of the long, cumbersome cords that are needed for PSVR. Sounds like an accident waiting to happen, right? Sounds like a possible immersion-breaking situation, right? Sounds like another takeaway to me.
2. Immersion Breakers!!!!!
One major flaw PSVR has is that it is wired. In a world where almost everything is wireless, all of the cords that are needed make the hardware seem ancient and inconvenient. Also, it is very annoying to be fully engrossed in gameplay only to have your neck snap left because your cat ran past and got caught in the cords. Or, what about when you’re playing the game but have to continuously press pause to move a cord out of your face and to a more comfortable position.
As presently constructed, I do not like the notification system either, and I hope they can come up with a better one. My first issue with the system is the trophies. Whenever you unlock a trophy, you still get the usual sound that accompanies it, but this time you don’t get the name of the trophy you unlocked. You simply get a small picture of a trophy. It’s annoying to get a trophy but have no idea what you got it for. However, this is nothing compared to how notifications are handled for anything other than trophies. For any other alert, there is no visual representation of what you are being notified about. You only get the chime. This is fine as long as you aren’t someone who gets a bunch of messages and game invites. If you do, get ready to snap…
The final takeaway that I want to bring attention to is actually more interesting than a knock against PSVR.
3) Your Brain Is Going To Freak Out At Least Once
Well, my brain did and so did my fiancée’s. But don’t trip. Everything is going to be just fine…
While playing Until Dawn: Rush of Blood, I found myself in a precarious situation. The game is an on-rails shooter where the player rides in a cart and shoots evil ghost and demons that are attempting to murder him/her slowly and viciously. One of the levels take place outside, and your cart rides extremely fast up and down hills that rival roller coaster rides at Six Flags Great America. Ok, the hills probably aren’t that bad, but to MY brain they are the absolute worse. You see, I have been horribly afraid of roller coasters most of my life. So, I kind of had a mild panic attack as I approached a massive hill that my cart was about to go barreling down at top speed. I completely lost my mind for a split-second. In the middle of blood-curdling yells, sweating, and hiding under a blanket, I had to pause and reevaluate my current situation. I thought to myself hold up, wait a second. I am tripping. I’m not REALLY on a roller coaster. I am at home on my couch. PSVR, I see what you tried to do there. You are something else. Once I came to that realization, everything was all good.
PSVR isn’t really something that you will be playing for long periods of time, at first. Your body does have to adjust to it. Some games will make you more queasy than others. For me, I have realized that games involving mechs and flying ships make me motion sick. Having the ability to look all around you at high speeds is not something I am use to in video games. So, I can only handle a few matches at a time. I imagine the more you play the more your body will adjust though.
Wrap It Up!!!!!
I have to mention that it was not difficult to hook up the unit. When you first unbox the system, all of the cords seem intimidating at first, but it is extremely simple if you follow the installation guide. Most games don’t require much movement either (I assume because of the long cords), so you don’t have to worry about physically getting tired.
Overall, I am extremely impressed with PSVR. It lived up to all of my expectations and more. PSVR has me excited for all of the awesome upcoming titles and the future of video games.