A few years ago, my wife convinced me that we had to buy a $400 juicer. It’ll make us healthier, the juice will taste great, and it’ll be fun to use, she said. I eventually agreed, and we made some carrot juice and orange juice that did taste pretty good. But after dumping eight pounds of pulp into the trash, we put it in a box and never used it again. Now, every time she wants to buy X or Y questionable, expensive thing, my go-to snarky reply is “remember the juicer?”
Unfortunately, now I have my own juicer.
It’s called the Oculus Rift.
I pre-ordered the original Oculus Rift and picked it up at launch for $600. The reality of owning my own home VR system was too cool to pass up, plus I thought I’d need to cover its games frequently for work as VR was about to become another player in the home video game space. The Vive had too many extra sensors and needed a whole room, the PSVR was still a ways off, and so the Oculus Rift it was.
The first time I set it up and got to experience VR in my home was magical. It truly felt like I was a living in the future in a way that no photorealistic video game or 4K TV had made me feel before. Even back then with just a handful of games and demos, it was sorcery.
For a while, it was a party trick. Friends and family would come over and I’d set up the Oculus Rift and get them to experience VR for the very first time. Everyone was very impressed. But on repeat visits, no one would ever ask to try it again. I found that a bit odd until I started to experience VR malaise for myself.
At this point, almost a year and a half later, I’m willing to admit that I have almost entirely bounced off VR at this point. I played many of the early Rift games and wrote about them for work, but existing in such a niche, barely anyone read that coverage. Above all else, the Rift is just not conducive to my lifestyle, nor is it a way I prefer to play games, if given the choice. As somewhat of a neat freak, I can’t bear to keep the headset and its sensor and controllers out in the office, hooked up to my work PC for easy access, meaning I have to take it out of the box and set it up each and every time with its monstrously thick tangle of cables which demand access to ports in my computer that are otherwise occupied by more relevant devices.
And frankly, I’ve found VR to be mostly exhausting. While not nausea-inducing, it’s something that I cannot stomach for more than 20-30 minutes at a time. A full hour is totally draining. And this is from someone who at one point, to hit a review embargo, played Mass Effect Andromeda 13 hours a day for a full week.
Longer and longer periods of time went by when I didn’t touch the Rift at all. I took it out on occasion to try out new “must-play” titles every so often, but rarely, and eventually, the thing sat in my closet for months on end, my interest entirely sapped. This was the future. This was the magic device that was everything I dreamed about as a kid. And I was letting it collect dust. I felt….guilty, though it wasn’t enough to get me to go back to it. Lately, more often than not I’ve forgotten about its existence altogether, even as I play PlayStation, Xbox, Switch, PC and mobile games almost every day.
It’s a combination of problems. It’s the set-up, it’s physical and mental exertion of playing and processing games in VR. It’s the fact that there are still very, very few VR titles I actually find worthwhile compared to console and PC games.
The problem for me now is that I don’t know what’s next. How I can bounce back from spending $600 on a VR headset I barely ended up using? The next step that seems like it could interest me again is a standalone, wireless headset, and Facebook/Oculus and others are making exactly that now. There’s the upcoming Oculus Go, and later, the Oculus Santa Cruz, which promises to fix many of the issues I’m talking about.
But it’s going to be a very tough purchase. I cannot imagine telling my wife I’m about to drop several hundred more dollars on another VR headset after what a running joke the Oculus Rift became in my household. In this case, being an early adopter ended up being a huge detriment to me and my potential interest in VR, and it’s going to make me incredibly wary of future VR purchases, if I make them at all.
I know that others have had a better experience. I know many people who have blocked out entire rooms of their house for VR, or still use their headsets regularly. I’ve found these people are usually very intense about VR and defending it, so I’m sure I’m stepping on some toes here, but all I’m saying is that for me personally, even as someone who is way more into tech and video games than most people, VR has been a deeply unsatisfying experience for the most part.
This week, in our relatively small loft, we had to do some reorganizing, and the space the Oculus Rift was taking up in the closet was needed. I moved it downstairs to our storage unit where it now comfortably sits in darkness and silence…right next to the juicer. I’m not sure when or if it will emerge again.
More Info: www.forbes.com