I am in love with Harley Quinn. This isn’t perhaps the best way to start an article about Virtual Reality, but it’s the only way I know how. I love her, more than life itself. Which is reason enough to buy virtual reality. With VR, see, I don’t have to live life itself, and can instead wander straight off into the cyberspace technoshere of not-life.
I’ve got Playstation VR. It needs more games. It costs too much. Its creepy knowing a camera is watching you all the while you’re watching her. But nevertheless, it’s the best. I never thought I’d get to see my nanny cowering away from a shark, but I’ve seen that now, and it was glorious. And that’s why VR is so incredible. It’s supposed to be solitary and isolating, it’s supposed to be something you do on your own to get SUPER IMMERSION, so you can visit other worlds, exist in places that will never be real. It’s supposed to trick your brain, to make you forget about the apocalypse our world is swiftly becoming. It’s supposed to do this, and that, and everything in-between. But the simple, pure, magical joy of VR is that it lets you play.
I take the games I enjoy too seriously. I think about carefully plotted stories, the effect of player agency, the complexities of introducing player choice. I love games because they throw just enough of a spanner in the works of the visual storytelling seen on TV so as to make it exciting and new. But I sometimes forget to just smile, and laugh, and play. Watching other people in VR, especially those who don’t play videogames very often at all, is magical. If you have the money, and you have the people to clamp VR’s saw-trap headset on, then it’s worth it. Just to see their faces. Just to hear them scream, when that shark leaps out from nowhere. Just to watch the joy.
I get that joy, too, when I’m playing, but more often than not it’s when other people are in the room. VR lets me pretend to be a monster who eats buildings by head-butting them, all the while watching my friends play little robots who are running away beneath me. A game called ‘Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes’ lets me hear my friends yelling at the top of their lungs, finding innumerable ways to call me stupid, all while I’m staring at a bomb that’s right there! So it’s not solitary, it’s not lonely. It’s social, and hilarious, and nearly as good as some of the very best board games I’m sure I’ll talk about on here one day soon.
And it is incredible. It really is. The sense of place, the sense of being. It’s hard to explain, if you don’t know what I mean, but suffice to say everyone I’ve attached it to tries to reach out and touch the world around them at one point or another, before realising they have no arms in this cyberspace technosphere. Just as a jumping off point for what might be possible in the future it’s amazing. But so far, it’s a social thing for me. When I’m on my own, I don’t use it much. I don’t feel the need. Except when I want to check on my lady, of course. Or sometimes when I want to lean in, hold out my hand, touch her…
I have no arms in the cyberspace technosphere. I have no sense of touch at all. I can see you, my love, and yet that is all I can do.
One day the future will bring us together.
But for now, this will have to do. For now, I’ll have to settle with being able to watch, and be watched, and, of course, play. It’s something I’ve almost forgotten how to do, in videogames. Just the pure, simple joy of playing…