One week ago, I was in the Dining room in Nottingham Council House giving a talk about the potential effects of VR and Game Transfer Phenomena at the ITAG 2015 conference. Last Saturday I was suddenly moved to another dimension, although at the same physical location, all thanks to “Unseen Diplomacy” and Valve’s HTC Vive head mounted display and controllers.
When my boyfriend Anders and me arrived at the location we saw a table flanked by two big flags and were greeted by two well dressed guys for our registration. My first thought was that “why are they wearing a white shirt and a tie? Maybe for the honour to be at the council house? Anders right away told me. They are secret agents! That is why they are dressing like that. Opss, how could I have missed it! Cool!” Hmm well, we assumed this was the idea at least. The sweat of us gamers’ VR immersions had left a trace and the room was a bit smelly. After waiting a couple of minutes in the queue it was finally my turn.
I started in a sort of “station” with simple textures and just a few features, to familiarise my senses to my new reality. It felt like I was sucked into another dimension and I was just put in a black hole at the blink of an eye. I am aware of my susceptibility of getting immersed but this was fast! Then for some reason the display disconnected and I was switched of from the Matrix. This short test left me with an urge to immerse again, which I must confess was in a way scary.
While waiting for the setting to be working again, a series of thoughts rushed through my head. I had an internal conflict between the excitement and the concern. VR is powerful! It is capable to genuinely make us feel as we are in another place. I have tried other VR games but the possibility to move around in a room and moving my arms and seeing the controllers definitely complemented the experience. As more sensory channels are stimulated it will be easier getting immersed. If we are able to get this technology today, what will we have in ten years? These technologies will transform us, if we actually can use them effectively.
Finally, after a while, the technology worked in my favour and I was launched into the virtual world once again.
The game was very interactive and quite intuitive most of the time. It consisted of progressing through different rooms and resolving some challenges. Being able to move naturally as in real life added to the experience and illusion, although sometimes the cable to the display was in the way. I crouched and crawled through ventilation ducts like a cat. I didn’t care how it looked because at that time I was in the game, effortlessly blocking whatever social anxiety of looking ridiculous, even though it was at the same location where I presented my research one week earlier! How ironic!
I also enjoyed dodging lasers as a real agent. I have seen lasers in many agent movies and games and I felt a bit like Lara Croft in Tomb Raider. Automatic associations with pre-fabricated experiences in media can be persuasive!
I was immersed for only five meaningful minutes and I did not experience any side-effects after this short period.
In general, I enjoyed the experience and I really recommend you to try Unseen Diplomacy if you have a chance.
It is amazing how easy we can trick our minds. There are a lot of potentials here. The development of Unseen Diplomacy by Triangular Pixels was done in 36 hours in a jam event, so I can imagine what can be done with more time. A big applause to Katie Goode and her team for their initiative of bringing this experience to us. Hoping to try more great work like this one in the future!