Big Pic­ture Mode

Nathan Brown knows VR is great, but he can’t be both­ered right now

EDGE - - SECTIONS - NATHAN BROWN Nathan Brown is Edge’s deputy ed­i­tor. While you’re up, could you stick the ket­tle on? And come back with a cup of tea?

Since be­com­ing a fa­ther, I’ve not re­ally had a hang­over. I mean, I’ve had plenty – the pound­ing head, the churn­ing stom­ach, the waves of nau­seous re­gret – but not like I used to, where you just spend a Sun­day curled up in the foetal po­si­tion on the sofa watch­ing five straight hours of the worst chan­nel on the tele­vi­sion be­cause the re­mote is two feet away and you sim­ply can’t sum­mon up the will to move. Th­ese days a hang­over means des­per­ately urg­ing a tod­dler to fi­nally dis­cover his in­door voice, sadly tidy­ing up Mega Bloks, and try­ing not to puke when 15 ki­los of seem­ingly in­fi­nite en­ergy knee-drops your di­aphragm.

Yet I’ve been think­ing a lot about those old hang­overs lately, and specif­i­cally that ap­par­ent phys­i­cal in­abil­ity to reach for the re­mote; to find one­self un­able to move for five sec­onds even when you know that do­ing so will greatly im­prove the next five hours. Ev­ery evening, as the off­spring fi­nally slips into his nightly devil-coma, I sur­vey my bulging pile of shame. I think about play­ing some­thing in vir­tual re­al­ity; all those ap­par­ently ex­cel­lent games I have on Rift, Vive and PSVR, and have yet to touch. This vir­tual realm of seem­ingly in­fi­nite pos­si­bil­ity of­fers me ex­pe­ri­ences I have never had in my 30-plus years of play­ing videogames. How can you say no to that?

But I will, be­cause it in­volves plug­ging things in, find­ing my head­phones, muck­ing about with cables and straps and head­sets that ap­par­ently want to eat my glasses (when they said I’d need pow­er­ful specs for VR, I as­sumed they were talk­ing about my graph­ics card). If I want to play a Vive game it means clear­ing the study of fur­ni­ture, set­ting the whole thing up from scratch and box­ing it all back up when I’m done, be­cause I can’t leave that mess in place with a two-year-old run­ning around. Rift al­ways seems to need an up­date, and is the most des­per­ate to gob­ble my spec­ta­cles. PSVR in­volves the least fric­tion but is still a pain in the arse, and in­evitably means I am go­ing to get all OCD- up­set about the ap­par­ent im­pos­si­bil­ity of my ever sort­ing its morass of cables in a re­motely ele­gant way. Se­ri­ously, that thing has ru­ined my liv­ing room.

So, faced with this dy­namic new medium and its in­fi­nite spec­trum of etc and so on, I just can’t re­ally be both­ered with it. And like a 25-year-old with a crip­pling hang­over re­sign­ing him­self to a Hol­lyoaks om­nibus even though he hasn’t watched it in years, I flop back on the sofa, fire up the PS4, and play what­ever was last run­ning be­fore I put the con­sole in Rest mode. I try to in­tel­lec­tu­alise it, to say it is so­cial and re­lax­ing and bril­liant, but this is prob­a­bly the real rea­son I play so much Destiny: it is quick and easy, and I am slow and lazy.

I won­der if I’d have felt like this ten years ago, at least when I wasn’t sob­bing be­neath a du­vet watch­ing three hours of Es­cape To The Coun­try. But VR’s some­what messy im­ple­men­ta­tion feels es­pe­cially in­ap­pro­pri­ate at a time when the game in­dus­try has worked so hard to min­imise the fric­tion be­tween us hav­ing the in­tent to play, and ac­tu­ally play­ing some­thing. An iPhone game starts up as quickly as I can show it my thumbprint (be­cause a swipe and a four-digit PIN takes too long!) and tap an app icon; PS4 and Xbox One keep games run­ning in standby be­cause stuff the en­vi­ron­ment and for­get the elec­tric­ity bill – I have 20 min­utes to spare be­fore the kid wakes up and fancy a quick bit of Cru­cible. We build our PCs with SSDs to max­imise startup speeds and min­imise game load times. When ev­ery­thing else in games is built around con­ve­nience – when our phones, con­soles and PCs have con­vinced us we are short on time – is it any won­der that VR feels like too much of a faff?

This is the price we pay for progress, I sup­pose. VR is a big step for­ward in one di­rec­tion that in­volves a cou­ple of lit­tle steps back else­where, and that’s fine. We should have to work a lit­tle harder for the big­gest thrills avail­able. We used to sit there look­ing at static load­ing screens for ten min­utes in or­der to see the best the Com­modore 64 had to of­fer; we’d travel all the way to the sea­side to see Fi­nal Fight’s gi­gan­tic sprites. In that con­text, how can I pos­si­bly feel that five min­utes get­ting set up for VR is too much like hard work? Our de­vices may have taught us to be lazy, but only a fool – or some­one with a re­ally bad hang­over – would sit through Bar­gain Hunt when Break­ing Bad is on the other side. So now that the hor­rors of 2016 are put to bed, I know what my New Year’s Res­o­lu­tion is. Make the bloody ef­fort.

This is prob­a­bly the real rea­son I play so much Destiny: it is quick and easy, and I am slow and lazy

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