It’s strange to think about how changing the means with which you interact with media can change your level of enjoyment. I suppose it makes sense with VR gaming, considering how immersive it can be, but I never expected how much I would love it.
To all those VR enthusiasts out there, I’ll spare you the speculation. I bought an Oculus Quest 2 back in November 2020. I had a metric crap-ton (I’m assuming this is a verified unit of measurement) of Best Buy points, so I ended up getting the 64GB headset for about $40 after I used them. Quite the deal!
Yes, I know Facebook owns Oculus and using a Facebook account is required to use the headset, but I don’t use my Facebook account for anything except sharing pictures with family and my blog’s integration with their site. There was a time when I used it more regularly, but that day has come and gone. Likewise with going with a mobile CPU/GPU model of VR headset. I know that other headsets are far more capable, and while I wouldn’t scoff at gaming on something like the Valve Index, I don’t much care for the price tag or inflexibility.
If that makes me a VR pleb, I’m fine with that.
Explanations aside, there have been very few experiences in gaming over the last ten years that made me feel like a kid again like VR has. I remember trying out VR for the first time back in college, and it stuck with me for years. My department in college had a number of students who applied for, and received grants, to purchase VR and AR hardware for projects. At the time, the groups had purchased an HTC Vive and Microsoft Hololens, and used the hardware sparingly unfortunately. I have my own experience with grants in college, which I might talk about sometime if there’s any interest in it, but I’ll save that for another day.
So I went up to my department’s workroom for the students, and got to try my hand at VR on the Vive. At the time, there were only a handful of VR titles that were worth the time, and the budget for VR games were admittedly limited for something that was intended for educational purposes, but I think one of those games was Handguns, Horseshoes, and Hand Grenades. I don’t know what it was really, but the sensation of feeling like I was actually present in the game, along with the feeling that I was actually interacting with objects and the environment directly, made me feel like a kid discovering video games all over again.
Fast forward to 2020, and I got a chance to mess around with the Oculus Quest 2, and it threw me back to that 30 minute session with the Vive. Selling Jennifer on getting it in the first place wasn’t easy, because she (understandably) had it in her mind that it’d be something that I’d play for about two hours and never pick it up again. Now, while she isn’t wrong to be concerned about that given my track records with things like the Nintendo 3DS, I was determined to make the case for myself to get my very own VR headset.
Then again, only paying about $40 for it certainly helped.
What made it even better, is that I actually managed to get her to try it, which she was hesitant to do since she was concerned she would get motion sickness from playing. That wasn’t exactly a warrantless concern, because it’s something that affects a large number of people, but the moment she booted up Beatsaber, I knew she was hooked. She even tried Superhot VR briefly, which was a major feat since she hates that game so much.
As for myself, I’ve fallen in love with the intuitive nature of VR games (at least those games that are designed well) like Boneworks and Job Simulator. There was a time when I considered VR games as glorified tech demos, and even though I still think there are many games that fall into that category, I feel that there are far more well built titles on the market today. Another issue I had with VR was the need for a constant physical tether to a “powerful” PC, along with some sort of tracking equipment, but thankfully with the innovation of “inside-out” tracking, there’s less need for extra equipment littered about the room you’re playing in, and it’s possible to play in a smaller space as well.
We have a decent sized play space in our game room at home that allows for a comfortable amount of movement without the risk of braining someone else in the room, or completely destroying your hands by smacking a wall at full force. There are a few games you can play in a stationary position, but outside of flight games, I haven’t used my headset that way. Being able to move about and interact in the game beyond pushing a button to pick something up is super cool. Playing games like Zero Caliber VR, Gun Club VR, and Superhot VR where you actually aim a weapon instead of lining up a reticle with the enemy. The latter in particular is even more entertaining since you can actually dodge with your body instead of simply moving an analog stick around. Beat Saber is similarly engrossing despite being a relatively standard rhythm game, mostly because you’re flailing wildly to some pretty pumping music… I’m looking at you, Crab Rave.
I think what captures my inner child with VR gaming so much is that it’s allowing me to interact with video games in a much different way than I have traditionally, and it scratches an itch I’ve had since I was a kid anyway. I remember growing up in the ‘90s seeing VR arcade machines in giant malls, and reading about them in magazines, as well as seeing mockups of VR systems in shows and movies for years. Hell, even getting to try out a Virtual Boy in Target as a kid was mindblowing to me, even though it gave me a headache after a few minutes.
I never got to try those VR systems in the mall as a kid (a session was stupidly expensive), and I’m somewhat glad I never bought a Virtual Boy, though admittedly it’d probably be worth a lot nowadays as a collector’s item. So having a VR headset and playing games on it so freely is like a dream come true. What further hammers home my excitement for VR is that, despite not being the highest fidelity headset on the market and not having the best interface, the Oculus Quest 2 still gives me the option to tether to my PC to play games that aren’t available as a standalone experience.
Even if it weren’t for me owning my PC, the Quest 2 would still be a good option. In fact, it’d be relatively the best option considering I wouldn’t need to pay $1000+ for the gear on top of buying a capable system to push the pixels necessary to have a non-nauseating experience. Trust me, I tried playing a PCVR shooter on an RTX 2060 before, and it was… enlightening to say the least.
Honestly, owning a virtual reality headset is one of the coolest pieces of gaming tech I’ve ever owned, only outpacing the Nintendo Switch by a narrow margin. I think the fun I’ve had with my Quest 2 comes from a sense of novelty combined with nostalgia… or nostelty! A new word!
VR gaming is nostelty in a package you strap to your face, like a gamer feedbag that isn’t filled with doritos.
Header Image Credit: Oculus Webpage