“Oh hey, I’ve been keeping up with your Op-Eds.”
“Op-Eds?” I found myself echoing back at the speaker of the statement tiredly.
My sleep is notoriously bad as I’ve mentioned previously. Indeed, it is 3:30am as I write this and whilst very tired indeed I am unable to find rest. Which over time really does not help how you feel. I was ‘fresh’ off the back of a very rough night in a hotel I was staying in with a friend with whom I had travelled down south to Portsmouth the day prior for an annual gathering of pals. Unfortunately, I was feeling every one of the 48 hours I had been awake for prior to that. The 48 hour thing has become quite the regular companion. So much so I had begun joking with friends that I was now following the day revealed as the galactic standard in the film Men In Black. On checking just now I find that it was a 37 hour day in the film, thus meaning I’m even out of sync in that fiction. Damn.
I blinked forcibly trying to bring my friend into focus. “Op-Eds…” I repeated, trying to get the cogs to turn. Or at least the teeth on them to mesh. That’d be a good start.
After what felt like forever but was probably only half a second it suddenly dawned on me that he meant this. These. He meant VR vs. I immediately felt slightly embarrassed as he works in the games industry. I’m always very flattered when professionals in ‘the biz’ tell me they read my work. That now a couple of friends in the industry had been following my writings – something I wasn’t aware of – I was, frankly, a bit touched.
“Quite something?” Ah. I laughed. “Well they’re certainly unlike our usual output yes. But that’s deliberate. I don’t claim to be an expert, I just give the low-down on things as I see them as a Regular-ish Joe. I just claim to be me, silly pop culture references and all.”
“They are a bit silly.” He smiled.
“Good!” I leaned a bit back in my chair. “If you’re gonna ask me to write a weekly column you shouldn’t be too surprised that it’s me who writes it.” I winked…. and then I changed the subject as quickly as I could. You see I have been notably absent from here for the last couple of weeks as I took a small holiday to burn up some extra time that I had accrued. By the time Gamescom is over I will no doubt have a bunch of accrued time again. Such is the way of things. Usually I get dragged back in for one reason or another, mostly my own desire to help out in a pinch. However, for my own good I decided this time I wanted, no, needed to just get away from everything. I wanted to go virtual reality (VR) cold turkey. The industry could just get along and do what it needed to do for a bit. I on the other hand was going to do some me things. I was going to play games, edit videos I’d been meaning to. Read a book. I’d even bought a bunch of painting equipment and was going to give oil painting a go. I’ve somewhat failed on that one, having only managed to sort the easel out yesterday afternoon. Still at least I have everything I need now. The point is that at the time I was very happy in having nothing to do with VR.
How hard could it be to avoid, right?
Breakfast followed, as per tradition, at a local cafe where the 50% of the group up in the morning took it upon ourselves to lay waste to an unfeasible amount of sausages, eggs, hash browns, beans and bacon. When a conversation about VR kicked off. I wasn’t quite sure why but two of my friends began discussing the pros and cons of the tech – for gaming, naturally. Strangely I played no part in the conversation occurring. It just… happened. I remember thinking that was probably notable for some reason, before doing my best ostrich impersonation and stuck my head in the sand (or breakfast in this case) and pretending it wasn’t going on.
No. I vowed. I am not going to be drawn into things.
The talk came to its conclusion soon enough and before I knew it we were off into town, dodging a surprise rainstorm and making our way through part of the city centre to chill out at the park. That was the idea but then I saw the gang gravitating to some sort of tented area in the middle of the pedestrianised area where people were playing video games. I was rather surprised to rapidly discover that they weren’t just any games either. There were four PlayStation 4 units setup with the PlayStation VR courtesy of GAME. Gaggh.
Two of the more curious members of the group quickly had an HMD on their heads, experiencing Battlezone and another title I didn’t quite catch. Was VR just following me around? I took a couple of snaps for the VRFocus Twitter account (I could hardly ignore it could I?) and then sat down on a bench, my head still feeling kind of fuzzy as I offered some suggestions for systems and games for those who had expressed an interest. Quick as a flash though we were on our way again, and this time into GAME itself where my friend (and host) worked, specifically in its Belong gaming section. Something that for some reason I keep thinking is Beyond and not Belong. Of course, along with an eSports gaming setup it also has an HTC Vive people can try out for various sessions. I should have known, of course. It was discovered the Vive now possessed Superhot VR and before you could say Jack Robinson my friends were queuing up to take out virtual bad guys.
I’ll be honest – most of them were bloody terrible. But the point was that not only was everyone in the group enthralled it was getting an audience in terms of people in the store. People were entertained and intrigued. I passed on joining in the bottle throwing and gun shooting and by the end several of my friends were mulling over the best systems again. I chuckled ruefully. It seems I had failed in my bid to escape VR because the shadow of the damn thing was following me all around town. Which made me wonder; as much as the press talk about VR ‘becoming mainstream’ what does that mean? Because you could, theoretically anyway, argue that a judgement as to when something is mainstream is when it is everywhere and you just can get away from it. On that basis VR was certainly mainstream that day.
Talk about the tech kept popping up throughout the day but soon the day was at an end. Laying back on the bed I stared up at the ceiling and contemplated things. I had been defeated by VR. But at the very least I had seen that it was because it was resonating with people so much. That people of all ages were still learning what VR can do and were fascinated to see the magic in action. Still. At least now I could put thoughts of it to rest and, finally, get some rest myself. I let my mind slowly drift away.
“Hey.” The friend I was staying with said from the bed next to me, looking up from his tablet. “There’s a VR Ready PC here that’s designed like a Borg Cube and-”