VR in Quarantine

VR in Quarantine

Photo Credits: TESSA KOGA / AGGIE

Aggie Gaming officer and avid VR gamer talk about the experience of VR, what it offers during quarantine

Appearing in many forms, virtual reality (VR) first emerged through a wearable headset called “Sword of Damocles” in 1968, earning its name because it had to be suspended from the ceiling while worn due to its weight. Even earlier forms of VR included the Sensorama. Created by a cinematographer, this seated arcade-style experience attempted to emulate all five senses using fans, smell generators, a vibrating chair and speakers. While the definition of virtual reality is debatable, today’s standards generally label it as complete visual immersion in an interactive virtual environment where technology responds to your tracked movements in real-time. Headsets such as the Oculus Quest, Vive Pro and Valve Index dominate the VR market today and can range from prices of $50-$1,000. 

Eriz Sartiga, a first-year computer science major and owner of the Valve Index headset, said VR has unique value that differentiates it from other games.  

“Unlike normal games where you sit in front of a TV or monitor, VR immerses you into the game by giving you a presence in it,” Sartiga said. “Rather than playing a character, you are the character. Given controllers, you can move exactly the way you want to, and I think this makes VR unique.”

Fourth-year managerial economics major and Aggie Gaming officer Andrey Sanin has been chipping away at a new video game release, Half-Life: Alyx. He said his first time playing the game was surreal. 

“It’s incredibly immersive,” Sanin said. “The first time I opened the game up, I think I spent 30 minutes just on the balcony that you start the game on. It’s really something, it’s crazy.” 

Other than just gaming, VR offers immersive video experiences, which include the settings of roller coasters, carribean islands and underwater realms. For Sanin, these simulations have helped contribute to the quality of his experience in quarantine.  

“Honestly, there’s some 3-D videos that came out years and years ago, but watching that kind of thing in VR, especially more the landscape ones, it’s very nice,” Sanin said. “I really like being outdoors and with the whole quarantine situation, it’s a little bit harder to go outside, so it’s nice to have access to a video that at least simulates it.”

In addition to games and videos, there are ways to interact with others using VR. Sartiga, who formerly hosted small get-togethers in his dorm allowing others to try his headset, recommends that people give VR a try.    

“With more time on our hands and more people bored, I highly recommend it,” Sartiga said. “You don’t have to play just games, you can even socialize on apps such as VR Chat where you can enter chat rooms and interact with friends and other people. There’s definitely a lot to do and explore in VR.”

Half-Life: Alyx, which came out in March of this year, is the third game in the Half-Life series. According to Sanin, this game gives reason to test out VR. 

“I think the Half-Life: Alyx is just one of the best arguments for VR gaming,” Sanin said. “Half-Life 2 kind of set the bar, and Valve did it again with the Half-Life: Alyx, where they completely took something that people were experimenting with and brought it to [another] level.”

He said playing such a high-intensity game — where it feels as though the player is the one being attacked by the game’s zombies, not the character — can be intense. 

“It’s not like in a video game where you have a character and you just back off,” Sanin said. “They’re running at you, I mean, they’re in your face and they’re about to hit you in the face. It’s definitely unsettling.”

For a first experience with VR, Sanin recommended a game he thought was slightly less involved.

“In terms of things to make you comfortable with VR, I think a great one is Beat Saber because you’re slicing blocks of things in time to music, it’s good fun,” he said.

Written by: Lyra Farrell — features@theaggie.org