I have been doing a lot of non-gaming stuff recently; 3D modeling, working on a D&D campaign, napping. After blazing through Horizon: Zero Dawn I didn’t feel that I wanted to start a whole new game, although I tried restarting Control (didn’t take) and have recently installed Crusader Kings III for some European Domination action (haven’t loaded it yet).
After receiving the Oculus Quest 2 for my birthday, though, things have changed. Not just like “I’m no longer playing RPGs, but am playing FPS now, thank you and goodbye”, but like “I’m changing my name, shaving my head, stealing a social security number and living off the grid” kind of change — well it kind of feels like it, anyway.
VR is an idea which refuses to die, despite the upturned noses of professional and amateur pundits. It started as an answer to a question that no one asked, irrelevant as the landscape of computing power played “hot potato” between PC, consoles, tablets, phones, and even live streaming via services like Xbox Live Streaming, GeForce Now, and Google’s Stadia. Everyone has had their hands on the tech ball at some point during recent memory, but VR was like that team member who was always open, but whom no one wanted to pass to. Like that team member, though, it kept on giving the game it’s all. The Rudy of entertainment tech, if you will.
Sales for the Oculus 2 apparently beat those of the Xbox Series this past Holiday season, for the exact reasons you can probably imagine (hardware shortages, creative accounting, et al) which is a headline that certainly led a lot of industry articles, but the fact that a VR headset could even compete says a lot about where VR finds itself at the opening of 2022. The Quest 2 is a consumer friendly (price and complexity) device, and the sales figures are doubly impressive when if you remember that Facebook (ne Meta) is behind it, a fact that didn’t seem to dampen people’s desires for the tech.
I have three VR headsets now, and the last time I used one was sometime in the middle of last year. My Samsung Odyssey is a Windows Mixed Reality device, the flagship edition, but that’s neither here nor there as Microsoft is gonna Microsoft. WMR rose and feel like a proverbial tree in an unoccupied forest, and now I think there’s only one new production device on the market bearing Microsoft’s technology. The PSVR was my go-to device mainly because it was always ready to go and made me feel that my PS4 was only sitting there to keep dust off the entertainment center shelf. I had Beat Saber, and an open basement room in which to swing my arms around in. Even though I own a lot of the content packs, there’s only so many times I could listen to the same songs before the repetition pushed me away. I have other PSVR games, but they are games, and I still prefer my gaming on the PC (and I am fearful of a VR Borderlands, to say the least).
Why the Oculus, then? Content and mind-share. Oculus is the “Kleenex” of the VR world for a lot of people, which is a sign of confidence for developers, so the software keeps on coming. I had hacked in WMR support for the Oculus store at one point, but there was never a guarantee that such a hack would continue to work. That the Quest 2 is wireless is a massive selling point; I had built my current PC specifically for VR and had to ensure that it had power and data throughput to handle the outsized demands of the tech. A headset without wires would be a game-changer. Plus, I work from home full time. I sit in this chair full time. When I’m off the clock, there’s a good chance I’m sitting in this chair. When not sitting in this chair, I might be sitting on the couch. As I approach my bicentennial in a few years, I realize that nothing physical in my life is going to get any easier unless I get up and move…another reason a VR headset-sans-wires is a marked improvement over the two other units I own. I can continue to use it in the open space in the basement, or I can take it to the living room which has less space, but should have enough to move around in.
My motives aren’t entirely fitness based, though. I have a few VR MMOs that have seen limited use with the WMR headset. One of them, Orbus VR, was one of the very first VRMMOs out there. Another, Township Tale, is a crafter’s delight, allowing players to work together to explore an open world and build a town from absolute scratch. I cannot stress how limiting having cables between a processor and a headset is when trying to play games like these; both are available on the Quest (although only Orbus offers cross-platform play), and it just feels different when I don’t have to worry about tripping myself or getting a cord tangled up in furniture. Just yesterday, Zenith: The Lost City was released, another VRMMO, and is close to what we understand to be a “traditional” MMO, with classes, quests, open world exploration, dungeons, raids, and crafting. Its early in the development cycle with more features planned, but when it works (and they have had the same launch-day woes that flat-screen MMOs are known for), it works brilliantly.
Now I don’t really want to sit here at the flat-screen and game; I want to go to the other side of the basement and stand up all day, slinging spells and swinging swords, and maybe jump around and box courtesy of the Supernatural fitness app. I’m not yet so stoked about the whole exercise thing — I’m hoping that comes naturally over time — but I feel that this is the change in my gaming habits that I need right now. Maybe it’s that “New Year’s glow” of supposed resolutions I always never make each year that’s turning my head towards something different. Maybe it’ll stick, and maybe it won’t, but I’m glad to have the opportunity to try it out.