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Posted November 3, 2016 by Andrew Cathie in Feature
 
 

That VR Joint: A Great Gaming Time


There is something visceral about VR and that sudden realisation that the monsters you’re shooting are no longer behind a screen and are instead walking right next to you. It’s something intangible, a feeling that can’t quite be described in words and can only be fully understood with experience. The issue with current VR setups, from the Playstation VR to the HTC VIVE is that they’re expensive. It’s all well and good to say to someone that they must try VR, but an entry level of $1000+ (Playstation 4 and Playstation VR) isn’t something most people can afford, let alone a new PC and $1399 headset for the best experience.

This is where That VR Joint steps in, a small pop up on Smith Street in Collingwood that is there to bring that visceral experience to Melbournians who want to try VR before they buy or don’t want to blow their life savings on a brand new set up. I spent the better part of an afternoon there on Halloween, having my longest exposure to VR yet and enjoying myself immensely.

As I walked in I was greeted by a row of HTC Vive headsets in booths and Jaymes, an employee of That VR Joint and passionate VR gamer who reached out to me to come and check them out. It was clear from the onset of meeting him that he was dedicated to helping make sure That VR Joint is successful, while doing everything the right way. “Every game we have here has been licensed directly through the developers for use,” he tells me as we walk towards the Samsung Gear VRs for a warm up into VR after months out of the game.

sonar

 

I haven’t touched a VR headset since I was at E3 2016, so I was eager to acclimatise myself with VR before I jumped into the more demanding games and experiences I knew were to come. Flying through the air in a giant canyon swing and seeing the beautiful views of Rio were amazing, but it was the Sonar video that really caught my attention. Set in space and a seemingly abandoned cave system, the combination of visuals and audio built an atmosphere of anticipation and dread which was thoroughly enhanced by being there and not just looking at a screen. It was a great starting point for someone relatively inexperienced with VR, allowing me to slowly get used to it and leaving me with the distinct feeling that I wanted more.

As we walked towards the racing set up Jaymes asked me if I had heard of Redout, “It’s like Wipeout or F-Zero, but in VR.” I had never heard of it before, but the promise of extreme speed (which I’ve sorely missed since Studio Liverpool was closed) had me ignoring any risks of a sick stomach and telling him that I wanted to try it. I strapped the Oculus Rift to my head, got through the menus as quickly as I could and felt an overwhelming sense of exhilaration as I flew around the track at a million miles an hour. Gone was the room around me, the headset and headphones fully immersing me in the race and the track. It was an incredible, immersive experience, but it paled in comparison to what I was about to see next.

richies-plank-experience

 

“Are you afraid of heights?” Jaymes asked me as we walked towards the very last booth. I most assuredly am afraid of heights, but that wasn’t about to stop from trying whatever he had in mind. I mean, it’s only VR and I’m on solid ground anyway, right? I began to question my decision as we got to the booth and I saw a plank of wood held a few centimetres off the ground by a plank at one end and a foam block on the other. “So this is Richie’s Plank Experience,” Jaymes tells me as I stand on the plank and have a Vive headset placed over my eyes, “You’re going to be in an elevator, then I need you to hit the button that says plank. Some people like to jump off the plank, but if you do, just hop off the plank.” At this point, I was really beginning to feel like I’d made a big mistake, but in for a penny, in for a pound, you know? I hit the button, waited as the elevators doors opened and then a rush of air hit me in the face (Jaymes had turned a fan on) as I was greeted by the sight of a plank sticking out from the elevator. There was nothing else, just the plank and an immense drop if I fell off. I’m not ashamed to say that I was terrified. In my mind I knew that I was only a few centimetres from the ground, but I could see that the ground was at least 20 floors below me and I could feel the plank wobble as I walked along it. I got to the end of the plank, prepared to jump, and couldn’t do it. No matter how much I said to myself that I knew the floor was right below me, what I could see before my eyes had triggered a primal fear within me that I couldn’t overcome. I quickly scurried back to the elevator and hit the ground button, feeling immediate relief as soon as I left the plank. Richie’s Plank Experience was simple, but it provided what I feel is the perfect VR experience, it immersed me and convinced my body that what was in front of me was reality.

space-pirate

 

After I got my feet back on solid ground we went to another Vive booth and I tried some more traditional games and VR experiences. I got to be a space pirate in Space Pirate Trainer, shooting down drones with an array of weapons and dodging their fire. I pretended to be Lara Croft, twisting and turning while wielding a bow and arrow to shoot down the blue boxes around me in Holopoint. I felt the terror as I ran out of ammo as hordes of zombies shambled towards me, having to resort to using a knife as they got close, in The Brookhaven Experiment. In Raw Data (potentially the most fully formed game I played) I felt the power as I became a gun-toting hero shooting down robots around me, only to be overwhelmed and break into a sweat as the numbers ramped up and they began to surround me. All of these games were fun, exhilarating and interesting, each offering a slightly different take on genres that I’m already well versed in. Job Simulator, on the other hand, offered something completely different.

In Job Simulator, I took on the role of a gourmet chef in a small kitchen, filling orders for a smattering of robot customers. There were no enemies rushing at me, no time limits for the orders or any other constraints for that matter and it allowed me to completely lose myself within the silliness of the game. If I could see it, I could interact with it, and I certainly did just that. I took an order for a sandwich, flinging the order back at the robot that had asked for it, hitting him square in the monitor. I grabbed a bottle of wine from the cupboard, intent on enjoying myself as I made this robot his sandwich. I grabbed a block of cheese and slammed it straight onto the bread. Cut the cheese, you say? I think not! Next I grabbed an egg, smashed it open on the cabinet, picked the egg back up from the floor and chucked it on the grill. While I waited for it to cook, I grabbed the fire extinguisher and started spraying the robot waiting for his order. I dropped the extinguisher, took a few gulps of wine for good measure and then realised the egg was charred beyond recognition. Whatever, who cares right? I can do whatever I want, so I flung it onto the sandwich anyway! I finished his sandwich, slapped it on a plate and whacked the bell as hard as I could with my hand, sending it on its way. I just kept going like this, finding new ways to do stupid things and completely losing myself within the game. I had found my jam in VR, a game that just let me be the immense idiot that I wanted to be and left me fully immersed and invested because of it.

job-simulator

 

Before I had even left, I realised that I’d begun planning the next time I wanted to come to check out the games I’d not gotten to try, this time with friends to try Raw Data in co-op, watch their reactions to Richie’s Plank Experience and try to impart my new-found love of VR to them. That’s the issue with VR: you can talk about it as much as you want, but the only way to truly understand it is to try it yourself. That VR Joint is the perfect way to do that and I highly recommend heading over there.

Sessions prices, as well as open times, can be found on That VR Joint’s website and bookings are essential for Fridays and the weekend due to demand.


Andrew Cathie

 
Rocket Chainsaw's premier Fantasy-loving Editor. I basically play anything and everything that looks like it could be fun or interesting.


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