Ready Player Me

3 minute read

VR is a technology that I’ve been interested in for while, but not one I’ve followed closely. Mostly because the barrier to entry was much higher a price than I was willing to pay, both in actual dollars and hassle. That all changed when a student brought in his PlayStation VR system for the rest of us to try. Having only ever played with Mobile VR (Google Cardboard and the like), I didn’t really know what to expect. I played two games that afternoon: Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes and SuperHot VR. Both were engaging and immersive in a way I didn’t think was yet possible.

The first is a party game where the person wearing the VR headset can see a large box on a table. It has a series of puzzles you must solve to disarm the cartoon bomb and a timer set to five minutes. The problem is that you can’t figure out how to solve the puzzles alone. The other players not in VR are presented with several documents on how to disarm the bomb (it shows solutions to the puzzles), but they can’t see the bomb in question. The goal is to work together by describing the puzzles in words and then have the other players describe back what sequence of steps to take to solve that puzzle. Solve enough puzzles and the bomb is disarmed. Let the time run out and you lose the game.

The second game, SuperHot VR, has very rudimentary graphics for a modern video game, but I really wasn’t bothered by that. The gameplay was engrossing in a way that regular games just can’t match. The premise is that of a first person shooter of sorts where the in-game clock runs at the same rate as your movements. Move slow and the game unfolds at a snail’s pace, move fast and everything speeds up. This means you can slow-mo punch a faceless baddie and have them shatter under your virtual fist as you simultaneously dodge a bullet from another NPC like Neo in the Matrix. Shoot your gun too often (since the bullets are traveling quite fast, and they came from your gun, time speeds up to a normal pace while the bullet is in flight) and the bad guys will close in on your position more quickly than you’d prefer. Even though they are just faceless gumby-like human forms, the fact they are coming from all angles makes the game both wonderfully fun and slightly terrifying.

After experiencing just a short taste of what’s now possible with VR, I knew I had to dig deeper into this world. Despite my aversion for Microsoft’s operating system, I built and configured a very capable gaming PC with parts from NewEgg and a copy of Windows 10 from Best Buy. The Nvidia 1080 graphics card powering this machine is more than capable of powering a modern VR headset, and hopefully it will serve me even as new VR tech is released. I got an Oculus Touch bundle and have already logged several hours in the Rift. Am I now expecting to face off against other people in a battle for riches using my knowledge of 80s pop-culture trivia like Wade Watts from Ready Player One? No, but I did feel kind of like him when I first entered the Rift and I’m beyond excited to see what is truly possible with this new tech. The feeling I got when I had my first VR experience is much like when I flew my drone for the first time. The fact we live in a society where these kinds of tech are available to regular consumers is almost impossible to believe.

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