Hi folks! Rab here.
I haven’t been so excited about video games for a long, long time. Despite being someone who was cynical about VR, and even a little bit suspicious of it, I am now a full convert. I have seen the light, and it emanates from a strange plastic headset that is far more comfortable than it has any right to be.
Look, the thing just works. The experience that has been sold to us is there. Right there. Right out of the box. Playstation VR can be all set up in less than five minutes, with a bare minimum of cables, and the experience you’ve been promised is right there. Intact. And you know what? I’m doing this thing an injustice by saying we’ve been sold or promised this experience. We’ve dreamed of this experience since the first days we ever tapped on a rubber Spectrum keyboard or slid a giant floppy into a C64 disk drive.
True story. I hadn’t even tried this generation of Virtual Reality until earlier this year. I was filming the BBC show videoGaiden, and a nice fella called Andy Robinson from CCP came along to show us Eve: Valkyrie on Oculus Rift. Even with all the devkit/PC/cable mayhem, the experience was astounding. I was talking about it for weeks. “It works! It works!” And so when the PSVR launch date was announced, I pre-ordered right away. But then do you know what happened?
Like when you wake up from a dream, I’d started to forget the experience I’d had with the headset. Was it really that good? Would I actually play it? On the week of launch I was seriously considering cancelling my pre-order. I can only imagine that some cosmic force was trying to intervene, to stop humanity’s progress towards a new frontier. Some sinister unseen hand must have been attempting to shape my will. But I resisted. And here we are.
Here we are in 2016, at last! The future! And here is how PSVR works. You wear this mad headset and look into these two screens. And then you try to pet a fish. After that, you bend over to look at a tiny little woman who appears to be floating right in front of you. Then, you get emotional because you can see an airship flying across the living room that your ma and da used to sit in. To shake yourself out of that nostalgic sentimentality, you go for a ride on a terrifying rollercoaster that makes you scream out loud in fromt of your daughter.
All these experiences are entirely convincing and compelling.
Rez, a game I’ve loved since the Dreamcast days, is now a world that I can sit inside late at night. I am inside Rez, destroying the enemies I know so very well just by looking at them. When I look behind me, I see that I am completely held inside one of my favourite games of all time. I am cupped within it. It is below me and above me. It is a warm memory enveloping me like a fluorescent, pulsating womb. It is the past and the future, at once. It’s impossible, and absolutely amazing.
Battlezone, a game where you pilot a giant neon tank in a geometrically fascinating warzone, is so beautifully old-school and deliciously difficult. And yet it’s so satisfying as you slide and boost around with your friends, watching flying enemies above and launching shells at baddie tanks below. You feel like you’re in the tank. These simple little statements can’t be repeated enough. You feel like you’re in it.
Launch games and demos are in abundance – developers and publishers are clearly as excited about VR as I am. The Resident Evil Kitchen demo is intense, and horrible. My niece Louise screams for the headset to be taken off her head. “Get it aff me! Get it aff!”
She is 32.
Small things become large. You can bat a ball away from you, and it is perfect. It is there, hovering in front of your face in a large marble hall. Then you hit it with your controller. And it goes. It feels real, virtually.
PSVR makes your own mind turn cartwheels. What can we do with this technology? The potential seems boundless, genuinely. In Playroom VR, a free download, there are ideas that shake you. The VR player is a sheriff, walking into a saloon. You will be amazed by the fact you can see the brim of your own cowboy hat hovering above your eyes, VR now dressing you too. The players in the real world watch the TV to get information on who the baddie is, and then they must describe the villain to the VR player. Teamwork. Then the VR player is a giant monster, and the TV players are heroes trying to escape from it. Playroom proves that VR doesn’t have to be that alien, dangerous solitary experience we’ve seen in all that dystopian future fiction. VR is instead an incredible portal into a new age of play.
A new age of play. That’s what it feels like.
“Will VR take off?” now seems like such a silly question. How can it not? This early, it is already a staggering experience. My sister said it best – “It’s flabbergasting.” It’s exactly what my da would have said, had he lived long enough to try it. Oh, and he would have loved it. We used to watch Tomorrow’s World together, and talk about what amazing things might come. PSVR feels like one of those things we might have speculated about in that Glasgow kitchen in 1986 – a mass-market Virtual Reality headset, opening up a universe of possibilities.
I can’t wait to see what’s around the corner. The corner is right there.
Can you see it? Looks real, doesn’t it?