I'm going to digress from talking about Elf Mastery today so I can talk about Virtual Reality instead. I have been doing an online Master's in Integrated Studies, and have been taking a course combination of writing and digital media. I decided I'd like to focus on Virtual Reality (VR), and in particular have been pitching the idea of using VR for people with low mobility. The idea is that scenes could be created, such as parks, beaches, museums, tourist attractions, etc, and be shown to those who can't actually get out to see them. While I didn't have the plans to buy the equipment immediately, my computer crashed and I was forced to buy a new one, and found a discounted system (open box) which had the specs and graphics card required to run the VR equipment. Then, with help from friends and family, I was able to get the money together to by an HTC Vive. I found that there are some existing scenarios that function quite well for my purpose, and I am also learning Unity so I can make my own. There are two types: CGI, and photogrammetric. CGI, of course, is a completely artificial environment, and I found a program on Steam that has some great examples of underwater CGI scenes that I feel quite relaxing. In addition, I found some sites that do photogrammetry, which is the combination of photos of a real scene to create a 3D environment. Sort of like a panoramic picture, but you can move around inside it and view everything from multiple angles.
For the time being, I am limited to the CGI versions and am learning to make landscapes in Unity. There is an artistry to it I don't yet have, though I am currently focused more on learning the technical elements, and how to optimize scenes for the Vive (VR is more taxing on a computer, as everything has to be rendered twice: once for each eye). Now, I'd be lying if I said I didn't also have some games as well, and those have been fun. As it is a new field many are alpha versions or demos, but I have one where you walk through a cave fighting skeletons, and my favorite is one called QuiVR where you use a bow and arrow to protect your castle gate from monsters. If you are not familiar with VR equipment, Vive is like the Wii in the sense that you actually move around in a 'play area', rather than sit and use a controller, so in QuiVR you actually go through the motions of drawing and firing arrows.
I've had a few friends comment that they'd never see me again because I'd disappear into the Matrix, but I have to tell you, that as cool as VR is, it has actually hard to stay in for a long time. There is a sense of disembodiment being inside Virtual Reality. Your brain, on some level, thinks it is still in reality, and sometimes you have to remind it that it is just in a computer. Myself, and a few of my friends, have noted that we feel some resistance to doing things like stepping off a cliff. The first time I tried it I was doing a tour of a castle ruin in Germany, and found myself on top of a wall. I decided to step off, and had to keep telling my brain 'There is a floor. There is a floor.'
In addition to the mental adjustment, there is some physical discomfort if from being in there too much. You are basically looking at two screens very close to your eyes. I've always been susceptible to eye strain, so I do get a bit sore after a while. The headset can also get hot. In addition, as many games and scenarios involve a lot of movement, it is common to come out of VR sweating.
The feeling of disembodiment I mentioned earlier also applies to the senses. You can't touch anything in VR, and sometimes my brain forgets that no, you can't place the controllers on that table, because it isn't real. There is no smell, or taste. It feels like being a ghost.
I don't want those previous paragraphs to seem like I am casting a negative view on VR. It is fascinating in many ways, and I love it and see a lot of potential for it. But the idea that people would become as addicted to VR in the way they get addicted to regular video games seems unlikely to me. I love going in there, but only for a limited time. In fact I appreciate reality all the more once I come out, as all my senses are back in play.
All in all here's my opinion. I don't think I'd by a VR headset just for video games. However, with the addition of exploration, education, and the sensation of tricking your mind in simulated scenarios (such as jumping off a cliff, which I've done), and the ease in which programs like Unity allow you to make your own VR scenes, I give it a high recommendation.
Bryant Reil currently resides in Kelowna, BC. Recent accomplishments include completing a Master's degree, and having finished two books, Elf Mastery and Elf Doubt. The third book, Elf Righteous, is underway.