Two weeks ago, my consumer model of the Oculus Rift arrived. I am enjoying myself.
I am enjoying the games and the experiences. The flaws of the technology are there and I'm aware of them.
I've also become starkly aware that it will most likely not be replacing my time spent with regular video games any time soon. Most likely it will supplement those experiences, in the same way that tablets haven't replaced laptops, virtual reality won't be replacing actual reality any time soon. I don't think it's going to replace anything really. For now it feels like a curiousity, a diversion. Something to experiment with.
So far I have not had an Oculus Rift experience that I feel could sustain me for longer than 30 minutes. I get in, I get out. It's strange, but I feel like developers understand it. Every single experience I've had so far seems to work within that time frame. I can't tell if the chicken or the egg came first.
I'm enjoying virtual reality. Immensely. But it hasn't stopped me playing Dark Souls 3 or Uncharted 4. Not even close. In fact, my favourite thing about Virtual Reality so far has been introducing it to other people. Like my wife for example...
Apologies for the vertical video! Blame my brother-in-law!
Watching people experience VR for the first time is truly incredible. Especially when it comes to people — like my wife — who don't normally engage with technology on a regular basis.
There are so many common factors. At first, most people are a little reluctant. A level of coaxing is required. Then, the reaction. It's instant. Compelling.
Mostly people are amazed, often they are terrified. They are hardly ever underwhelmed. The reaction is almost always visceral.
Probably my favourite reaction so far...
And it's interesting to watch, almost certainly more interesting than VR itself.
Because like most technology of its ilk, the shock of VR dissipates within minutes. After 20 minutes or so you become so accustomed to the experience that you take it for granted. It's similar to any technological leap — no-one is watching Blu-rays now and marvelling at the crisp resolution, they're watching the movie on its own terms.
Same goes for VR, and it's a shame because that first experience is so powerful, but you'll never get it back. The closest you can get to that same experience is watching other people and living vicariously through their first experience.
It's only a little bit creepy. The worst thing: running out of people to show. The weekend just past was a golden era, we had family over from different parts of Australia, people we hadn't seen in a while. The relief was palpable — we had run out of people to show.
The rest of us, who were already normalised to the VR experience, were like ravenous wolves. We need to show Richard the Oculus Rift. "RICHARD, YOU NEED TO TRY THIS".
One poor member of our family, who will remain nameless, she didn't react quite viscerally enough. Didn't show enough amazement, didn't reflect enough joy. The disappointment was palpable. The atmosphere was tangibly deflated.
"Why didn't you like it? What the hell is wrong with you?"
I remember feeling a bit angry, like someone had denied me something — the simple pleasure of basking in another person's VR virginity had been taken from me.
But there's an endgame here, and it's rapidly approaching: the moment when everyone in my friend group — and everyone in my extended family — has tried virtual reality. That time is coming. It will one day be an actual reality.
I'm dreading it.