For the last few weeks i have been lucky enough to have access to a HTC Vive VR headset and a big empty room to use it in at a friends house. It’s early days, but i wanted to document a few of my thoughts about the technology and some of the ways i think it could be used in my day to day life as I endeavour towards independent living.
The first game i played in VR, and by far my favourite, is a simple archery demo called “Longbow”. It’s part of a collection of games called Steam VR.
For the longbow game you stand on a parapet at the edge of a castle and you are attacked in waves by simple 2D attackers. The game is very cartoon like and simple. They came in waves and you keep shooting them when they get to close. You loose when they make it through the gate of the castle.
Beyond being a fun game, the autism angle on this for me is the escapism. I don’t get to go far and it wouldn’t be realistic for me to go do something like archery often. However, with VR i can get most of the way there whenever I wish.
It’s also helping me from a coordination and balance perspective. As i play it i am slowly getting better and i am also having fun. I don’t get frustrated when i loose as i know i can just have another go.
It’s the sort of repeatable simple gameplay i love and there nothing complex about it. You stand and shoot. No silly menus of “boosts” or other rubbish to get in the way.
Another game i have enjoyed is called Rec Room. It’s a free multiplayer game enviroment where you play different mini games with strangers. For example, you can play paintball, a sort of simple tennis game and go on quests.
I like it for a few reasons. First, playing against other people is fun. I never connect a microphone so i can just wave at people and they wave back. Playing paintball i got a really good shot on someone and they clapped and i bowed and they laughed but in a nice way. It was fun.
Another reason i like it is the that the enviroment is large. Day to day i live in a quite a small space (13-20 hours a day in a single room) so being able to explore a big virtual space helps me to feel less contained. Again, if i was doing this in reality i would struggle.
Finally, unlike the real world i can instantly abort out of any situation which gets overwhelming. If the rec room did get to much, too loud and busy or a social interaction went wrong, i could just take the headset off and be back in the real world. This means VR social time uses WAY less energy that real world interaction.
The puzzle game Portal is my favourite game ever. It’s witty and clever and the puzzles are fun while also being a challenge. The VR demo is brilliant. 10 puzzles which build on each other and encourage you to think “outside the box”.
This is the sort of game i can come back to over and over again as i try to perfect my path through the game or explore new solutions.
The VR aspect greatly enhances this game. It’s more immersive and due to that it’s better at helping me to detach from reality for a little while. I find it very hard to relax, so having an effective relaxation tool is a useful thing.
I have really liked my experiences with VR so far and i can see a few ways it can be positive in my life. I am not a heavy gamer, but i do like exploring and VR gives me the option to explore many different things in a way i find far more accessible than fiddly controllers or confusing game menus.
I think the best thing about VR is that its become a tool i can use to relax and think. Over the weekend i had a complicated coding problem to solve and the solution came to me while i was playing archery. There something about moving my body and getting active which seems to make my brain work better, and thats a super useful thing.