When I was younger, sometimes I would lay down to sleep after an evening spent rotating blocks in Tetris and have a hard time turning off my brain. Behind my eyelids, in the dark of the night, I could still see a familiar pattern of falling geometric shapes. My brain was trying to solve a puzzle that wasn’t there anymore.
Virtual reality is a wonderful, immersive tool that can provide us with hours of realistic, believable entertainment. But what happens when we turn it off? If Tetris can lodge itself firmly in a ten-year old’s mind, you can be sure VR’s going to have an impact that lasts long after you’ve taken off the headset.
The Story That Stays With You
It’s not a bad thing if you find yourself swallowed up in a story. In fact, it’s absolutely fantastic to find an experience in any media that stays with you afterward. It means it really meant something to you, and that sort of experience is all too often a rare and precious gift.
The immersive power of virtual reality is a wonderful thing. In particular, we gamers crave the kind of game that we can’t put down. Who among us hasn’t been so engrossed in a game that it stays in the back of their mind even after they quit?
Spend long enough thinking about puzzles in Portal, and you’ll start seeing solutions in the real world. Image source: Klow via Wikia.
I remember playing Portal for the first time. As a game that encourages you to study your environment to find ways of moving around, it made sense that, after putting it down, I found myself wandering around with a new appreciation for the architecture of my hometown.
I saw excellent places for portals everywhere—quick and easy routes to the tops of buildings, or places where, with the right velocity, I could find myself sailing across the sky, if only I had a portal gun of my own.
One of the marks of a great game is the hold it has on your brain even after you stop playing. Oftentimes, this lingering intrigue only serves to make the experience that much more fun. A wonderful recent video from Extra Credits, for example, details how one young boy learned research skills because he was so invested in Everquest that he kept formulating strategies outside of the game.
When a game is enjoyable enough, you’ll even spend time outside the game immersed in its world and lore.
Alternatively, fan communities that focus on particular games exist because players want a safe space to discuss their favorite experiences. In the case of fan fiction or fan art, this can mean the creation of unique works that pay tribute to a game and help players further develop their own skills.
VR games, with their added immersion, have a far greater potential to draw in players. As a result, it’s likely that they’ll be even harder to shake when the games are turned off—meaning players will continue to enjoy them even when they’re not playing them.
Saying Goodbye to the Outside World
This immersion works both ways. Just as a game world can follow you once you’ve removed your headset, sometimes it’s a challenge to turn off your rational brain and enjoy a VR experience.
Gamers who enter a virtual world aren’t able to check their previous experience at the door and pick it up again on their way out. The way a player will interpret a scene will depend on their particular worldview.
While, to a certain extent, it’s up to the player to suspend our disbelief, it’s important that game developers provide us with an experience that has sufficient depth to help us forget ourselves and get swept up in the narrative.
Fast paced action, as in Raw Data, grabs the user’s attention and focuses their mind on the gameplay. Image source: Road to VR.
There are plenty of ways to do this—action games, for example, aim to titillate and excite us with flashing guns and fiery explosions. Games like Raw Data aim for the shock of an intense experience to help us separate ourselves from our lives outside.
Other games provide a deeper, and more nuanced approach. Games like Loading Human, with its strong focus on believable characters and a detailed, rich narrative, help to make the process of turning off our mind that little bit easier by giving us a fully fleshed-out world to sink into.
The initial area that the player explores in Loading Human almost acts as a palate cleanser. A player’s life outside the game can be let go of as they explore their new life, learning about the game’s main character, and engaging in immersion-building activities, including shaving in front of a mirror and handling personal items like vinyl records.
Loading Human’s immersive world filled with depth creates an enjoyable experience that will draw in the player.
Through these actions, the player is invited to forget the outside world. As they do so, they’re able to better buy into the immersive story. As the game unfolds, the player is drawn into a deep, enthralling narrative that allows them ample opportunity for escapism and roleplay.
A Joint Effort
When VR games do a good job of transporting the player to a foreign world, it leaves a lasting impression. To make the most of this, though, the player has to choose to accept this new reality, and put out of their mind any doubts they might have about it.
VR can make this easier, as long as the player is willing to invest a little. The motion controls and unique viewpoint of virtual reality helps to sell the illusion. Just like with a magic show, the player has a choice: either spend the entire time trying to pick holes in everything they see and figure out how all the tricks are done, or simply sit back and enjoy the wonder and mystery of a new experience.
When a VR game really resonates with a player, it stays with them even after they’ve removed their headset. In that way, the game world becomes real in the eyes of the player. After all, few forces are more powerful than that of the human imagination.
To play Loading Human for yourself, order it now! The game is currently available on PlayStation VR, Oculus Rift, and HTC Vive.