If you’ve read my blog for a while, you might be surprised to see a post that’s about video games. I’ve never written about video games before because I have never really played them. A couple years ago I had the idea that I should find a fun video game to play on airplanes just to pass the time when I’m too tired to work, but I couldn’t find any that held my attention. In other words, I am not into video games at all.
However, I am REALLY into VR. Seven years ago I got to be one of the first hundred or so people to experience VR with full positional tracking, and it blew my mind.
For the past few years I’ve had a gaming PC and wired headset just for VR, but I haven’t recommended it much because the cost of a gaming PC + headset are pretty steep for occasional VR use.
However, the Quest 2 from Oculus/Facebook changes all of that. I’ve had one since launch date last month and am absolutely blown away by it. I’ve pushed a bunch of friends to buy one and the universal reaction is something along the lines of: “Wow, I had no idea this sort of technology even existed.”
The thought that keeps crossing my mind is: when I was a kid I got to play video games. Now I get to be inside video games. That distinction makes them not feel like video games, but rather like doing an activity with your friends. What’s the difference between an escape game and a computer game? One of them you are looking at, and another you are immersed in. VR may not be as immersive as real life, but it is much closer to that side of the spectrum than a regular computer game. And, of course, it has the benefit of not needing to adhere to the rules and physical laws of reality.
The timing on the Quest 2 is accidentally perfect. At a time when I can’t see most of my friends, we can all go into VR and play games together. I rarely play by myself, but I play almost every day with some subset of the 10-15 friends I have who bought Quest 2s.
The Quest 2 starts at $299 for the 64gb model, and that’s really plenty of space. That’s enough for 15-30 games, which is probably more than you’ll realistically be playing at a given time.
The best multiplayer games are Rec Room, Echo VR, and Population: One.
Rec Room is a big social world where there are built in games but also user-generated games. My friends and I love playing “Rise of Jumbotron” together, all of the escape games made by a guy named gripter, and the elevator escape game. I would not recommend playing with random strangers here, as they tend to be obnoxious teenagers.
Echo VR is sort of like ultimate frisbee in space. This seemed like a game that I would hate, but it is really so much fun. It takes a lot of teamwork and coordination and is very immersive. After a few minutes you forget that you’re in VR and you really feel like you’re floating around and launching off of things.
Population: One is another game that I thought that I would hate. It’s fortnite in VR but you can climb and fly. I’ve never played fortnite and don’t like first person shooters, but again this game is so much fun. None of my friends are gamers and we are obsessed with it. If you want to play with us, my friend code is 3UA7-FO0P-AYRI-3.
What makes these games fun is the level of immersion and the social aspect of playing with your friends. It’s hard for me to explain to people who haven’t played VR just how real these games feel. They don’t feel like actual reality and they aren’t photorealistic, but it really does feel like you are inside them, not just looking at them. Think of them as doing activities with your friends, not as playing video games. The truth is somewhere in the middle, but it feels much more like hanging out in crazy worlds with your friends.
There are also great single-player games, but I find that I would always rather play something with my friends. The best single player game is I Expect You To Die, which is basically a series of escape games without the restrictions of real-life. One of them has you escaping from a sabotaged submarine, for example. You can also cast your view to a TV or phone, so friends can help you with the puzzles in real life.
It’s worth knowing that all games can be returned within 14 days if you play less than 2 hours, so I buy any game that looks good to me and just return the ones I don’t like.
Many places sell the Quest 2 right now, but I’d buy it from Best Buy since you can go get it in person today and they will let you return it any time before mid-January. That’s a pretty good risk-free opportunity to see what the future is like. Most people, including myself, find the built in strap very uncomfortable, but the Elite Strap is really good.
Some people find motion in VR uncomfortable. I found it extremely uncomfortable, to the point where I’d become nauseated if I used the controller to move around for even a minute or two. For that reason I always avoided any game that had any sort of movement. I tried Echo VR on a lark and somehow it didn’t make me sick at all. After that I tried Population One, which is exactly the type of game that would make me feel sick before, and it doesn’t bother me at all now. I even turned off all of the comfort options and it still doesn’t bother me. I have no good explanation for this, other than maybe Echo VR is a good innoculator.
Photo is another cool installation at Area 15 in Las Vegas.