I recently picked up an Oculus Quest 2. It’s a nice headset. It comes with an integrated Android-based operating system for playing games internally, easy-to-use controls and self-contained motion tracking, without the need to put up cameras around the room.
I’m a big fan of it, considering the price and how easy it is to use. My Dad, a 57-year-old electrical engineer with lots of love for innovative tech, was also a big fan when I strapped him into the headset on short notice with a game booted and told him to play along.
While he was strapped in, using the Oculus Quest controllers to pick things up and artfully dodging the three-metre USB-C cable between the computer and the headset, I noticed some things about my old man and the piece of tech often spruiked as inseparable from web 3.0 and the metaverse.
I was worried my Dad would have a bad reaction to VR
Initially, I was worried about strapping this admittedly cumbersome headset to his head. Although Dad is no stranger to tech, being a gamer with decades of love for the medium and a curious nerd, I was worried that his brain would nope out and make him feel queasy.
Front of mind was a story he once told me about his experience with playing DOOM (1993) during work lunch breaks. He and his office friends were loving the game, except this one guy, who couldn’t help but throw up after every DOOM session.
Much like with how motion sickness caught up with gamers in the 90s as 3D games came into being, I was worried that my Dad would toss his cookies when he entered virtual reality. But, as a lack of sickness would imply, everything was fine and my Dad handled it like a champ.
VR can really fool you
Showing my Dad the shooting range in VR shooter Pavlov VR, my Dad was often caught up worried about bumping into surfaces in the game world, like tables and benches, to the extent that he wouldn’t let me lead him in the real world to adjust his position in the room or relative to the cable (I had to be really stealthy with this).
I am happy to report that, despite his spatial awareness not being terrific in VR, my Dad was very deliberate with how he moved, not banging into anything in my house. I, unfortunately, don’t have the same luck, often kneeing my couch or punching my wardrobe.
Guns are still the best thing to play with in VR
I’ve got a nice assortment of VR games to play: Blade and Sorcery, Pavlov VR, Arizona Sunshine, VRChat, Beat Saber and a few others, but my Dad didn’t care – I offered to start something other than Pavlov VR, but, “No, I want to keep playing this!”
I can’t blame him, Pavlov VR is a crazy fun game and to be honest, I didn’t want to put my Dad in a situation where he’d have to move around too much (as situation games like Half-Life Alyx and Beat Saber call for).
For those that don’t use VR, Pavlov VR is a gun game, mostly centred around team versus team modes. Without wanting to give my Dad a bad reaction to the headset, I had him firing guns in the firing range.
Which, I might add, my weapon nerd of a father totally loved. He enjoyed firing weapons he has read and learned about, trying to figure out how to reload them and which buttons on the controls translate to what actions in the game. This, unfortunately, brings me to a finding that my Dad won’t be too thrilled about reading.
VR is still too complex for the average user
My Dad is no dummy, but when you consider that it took upwards of 15 minutes to start this thing (booting the headset, getting it to work with my PC, starting Steam, Steam VR and then Pavlov VR via Steam), it’s too time-consuming for what genuinely boils down to be a gimmick.
In practice too, my Dad was often forgetting which buttons did what or which interactions in the 3D world were meaningful and translated to gameplay. Also, anecdotally to this point but not entirely unrelated, much of the applications of VR are just too unreasonable for an average user.
My Dad and I spoke about VR on our way to see Dune (great movie by the way) after his session of Pavlov VR . We talked about the actual practical applications of the tech – gaming, being the most obvious, but also for industries like architecture, which could use the tech to allow for demonstrating projects to clients.
Beyond these two things, we had trouble thinking about circumstances where the tech could actually be used. Many tech demos demonstrate how VR could be used in virtual shopping or in calls with colleagues, but why would you do these? These aren’t interesting let alone innovations. Dad added that he wouldn’t want to use it for conference calling.
At some point, I’d love to get my Dad to try out more metaverse-oriented applications like VR Chat, but I’d say Pavlov VR was a good toe-in-the-water moment for him.
Watching him blunder around in VR though? Terrific experience. I recommend you show your Dad VR.