Virtual reality gaming may promise intense thrills and mind-blowing frights, but, in a strange twist of fate, some of the most interesting games emerging from the finally now-real market for them are utterly, well, pedestrian. Instead of always going for the extreme, virtual reality is finding a nice little niche in re imagining the everyday, adding a slight twist to the almost mundane to evoke emotions like satisfaction and accomplishment often foreign to the amped-up gaming world.
Simplicity winds up being a real appeal in these games. VR offers a whole new range of possibilities that can feel overwhelming, so completing simple, familiar tasks will certainly aid the transition to more advanced gaming. But there’s good reason to think these pleasant experiences will stick around as fundamental components of VR gaming into the future. They offer a sort of augmented reality, one in which life is simpler and more satisfying, surreal in their defiance of the meatspace.
Most of us whittle away frightening chunks of our lives in offices or at jobs we can’t stand, so what, you might ask, could possibly possess someone to build a virtual-reality version of tasks like running a kitchen or sitting at a desk? Well, Job Simulator isn’t simply asking you to do a job, but instead to experience it as if it was some lost treasure of the past. The game imagines that it is 2050, and most of our jobs have long since been automated. So the only way to experience the hectic balance of making hot dogs while ringing up customers as the clerk of a convenience store is to strap on your VR headset. The best part is that your real livelihood isn’t on the line; if you don’t like a customer, you shake up their soda and send it flying at their annoying face.
Ever dream of being a hero, but just haven’t had the (mis)fortune of stumbling upon a moment that requires your bravery? Well, we can’t all be firefighters, but it is now possible to feel what it’s like to save a kitten. And, apparently, it’s kind of terrifying. Japanese games company Bandai Namco designed a simple VR game that requires walking down a narrow plank suspended high in the sky to save a kitten sitting at the far end. We’ve all dreamt of what it would be like to be a casual hero, and this game may give you a sense of just what that might entail.
“Gary the Gull”
Limitless Studios, a virtual reality gaming startup founded by some former Pixar developers, believes that the real frontier of VR is its potential for eliciting more emotional experiences than traditional video games allow. So when you go to the beach in its first demo, Gary the Gull, you are greeted by a somewhat troublesome talking seagull that is less interested in you than he seems. He really just wants to eat your food. Look away for a second, and he’ll grab your lunch. It’s an awesome example of melding new emotional and physical features of VR into a single, simple game.
These games may defy a certain mode of thinking about the future of virtual reality, but maybe that’s a sign there’s something to them. They show there is room in VR for games that don’t entail hunting aliens or blowing things up. If this style of VR gaming catches on big, how we experience and view our everyday lives may evolve. The main risk will be if we never want to take the headsets off…