Lost in the virtual reality labyrinth

Recently, like for many of you I’m sure, I’ve been reflecting on what to do about Christmas this year. Namely, what presents to buy …

A random email promoting the sales on Black Friday sparked my interest in a virtual reality headset for the PlayStation. I’m not particularly a big video gamer – I have a PlayStation, but I mainly watch Netflix through it. What games I have are mainly played by my young nephew when he comes round. It’s a bit of a hunch, but I’m fairly sure he would be happy to explore virtual reality gaming though. Virtual reality is also a bit of a hot topic at work with more people trying out virtual reality in an educational context.

Scott vr

You’ve guessed it, my thought processes needed little convincing to take the plunge and find out what I was missing out on …

Those of you that know me well will know that I have a bit of a fascination with ancient Greece. I was thrilled to see one of the VR games based around Greek mythology where you take on the role of Theseus and explore the labyrinth. For the Classics purists amongst you, this of course is not a faithful adaptation taken from the likes of Plutarch or Horace, but a reimagining of the myth (no scoffing at the back please).

After picking up the kit I set it all up in my living room (the biggest room in the house, so plenty of space to flail around), which was all relatively straightforward. I took the usual precautions too, like moving rugs, furniture, etc, out of the way and was good to go (YouTube is littered with VR fails – I didn’t want to become one of them…).

Superlatives are not words I use lightly, but I was genuinely in awe at the majesty and scale of how the labyrinth had been put together using virtual reality.  The immersion was incredible and I’ve not felt the same level of thrill and excitement when playing a video game since i was a child.

You’re enveloped in a 360 degree world of crumbling doric columns, vast chasms and dizzying structures that make you feel very small indeed. I have played other VR ‘games’ at various conferences and events through work in the past and have been mildly intrigued. However, the sense of scale and immersion I experienced in the role of Theseus exploring the labyrinth was something else entirely.

I was happy enough losing myself in the labyrinth itself and navigating the challenging terrain. One particular section has you inching your way around a bottomless pit – in reality, I knew i was really staring down at a section of my living room carpet, but as I teetered on the brink of oblivion the churning in my stomach was very real! Of course, there’s far more to the game than just the scenery – there’s an interesting story as well as monsters and challenges to overcome, but I don’t want to give too many spoilers away.

It’s easy to get carried away by the novelty of anything new. I’m as guilty of that as anyone else – after only one day of trying out virtual reality gaming it’s all too easy to be seduced. I often think of that old mantra of ‘It’s not about the tech, but about how it’s applied’ that counts.

VR is no different, but when applied well and matched to the interests of the individual the impact can be incredible.