I received an Oculus Rift recently.
I also live in a neighborhood with a lot of friends. We get together regularly, and that usually involves some light drinking and board games. These friends, they don’t really play video games. When one of them heard that I had an Oculus Rift, though, he spread the word and asked if the group could try VR for the first time.
Why not, right?
I’ve been using the Rift to play games like Adr1ft; that is, singular experiences with core gamers in mind. The virtual reality aspect of games like Adr1ft works more to heighten the experience of the game, not necessarily create the game itself. Adr1ft works just fine on a TV with a controller.
I don’t think games like Adr1ft are great for showing non-gamers a good time with VR. The video game aspect of it, completing objectives in a large space under the constant pressure of looming death, is not something non-gamers are really used to. It’s distracting in the virgin world of VR, so I looked elsewhere for experiences to demonstrate the hardware to friends.
I picked a small sample of software to check out. The Oculus store doesn’t have too much, and I wasn’t ready to pony up big bucks to buy the lot of interesting ideas. So, here’s what I downloaded:
- Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes
- Floor Plan
- Henry (this is a VR short)
- Please, Don’t Touch Anything
- Time Machine VR
- Esper 2
With the exception of Time Machine VR, these games are all stationary experiences. When played, the user sits in one position while using the gamepad or remote to manipulate the objects in the world around them. I picked these experiences on purpose.
There’s no need to navigate the space here, something I think gamers do well. Non-gamers? Not so much. Navigating a 3D space with two sticks on a standard TV screen is hard enough for someone who’s never picked up a controller. Slapping a VR helmet on them only ratchets that difficulty up.
With the games selected, my friends rotated in and out of play. The two hits of the night? Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes and Floor Plan. The former is the type of game I’d like to see made more often for VR. Let’s start with Floor Plan, though.
Floor Plan takes place on an elevator. You’ll move from floor to floor, interacting with a host of bizarre characters as you grab items and solve puzzles. It’s sort of like a tight point-and-click adventure, though there’s no real story or objective beyond finding and solving everything. We played through it as a group in about an hour.
Right, it’s rather short.
Then there’s Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes. I’m a fan of this game from before VR, so keep that in mind. This is a multiplayer cooperative experience where one person sits in front of the computer (or wears the VR headset) while the others gather round with their phones or (if you’re a nerd like me) a three ring binder. The person with the computer or headset is working to disarm a bomb, while the folks with their phones or the printed manual are working to read the disarmer instructions.
Only the one disarming the bomb can see it, while the bomb experts are the only ones with access to the instructions for disarming the array of increasingly difficult bombs.
This, no pun intended, was a blast.
How did my friends react? They loved it. One friend in particular spent the most time with the headset on, completing the entire playthrough of Floor Plan while we watched and yelled at him.
That yelling? That’s sort of the best part. While virtual reality is, by design, sort of a single player experience, I’ve had the most fun with it while in a group. Games like Adr1ft are wonderful, don’t misunderstand, it’s just that the social nature of experiencing this completely new tech with friends for the first time is incredible.
I promise this is connected, but it’s a lot like spending time with my five-year-old son. Seeing him react to the Star Wars flicks for the first time with that genuine sense of wonder and awe is almost exactly what I experienced when I watched my friends try VR. It wasn’t on the same scale, of course, but there’s a lot of fun to be had in watching others have their minds blown.
The part they didn’t like? One of them asked me how much they’d need to spend to get an Oculus Rift. They don’t have a home PC. I told them, from computer to headset, they’re likely looking at something around $1200. My friends went silent until one of them got up to grab another round of beer.