Recently a client let me try out his Oculus after raving about it for weeks. I finally decided to make the time to see why he was so excited. And I have to say it: I’m completely hooked. I love it.
Over the course of two different visits, he let me play with three different apps. Those are Saber Beat, Pistol Whip, and Tripp. From the first minute I played Saber Beat, I could see that this was going to end up being an upper body conditioning session. It is addictive, and I find myself playing it for hours at a time — yes, I bought an Oculus of my own.
What Saber Beat is for the arms, Pistol Whip is for the legs. I was literally doing hundreds of squats while playing this game. Ultimately I had to stop, because I finally realized I could barely walk. I had sweat pouring off me. It was awesome.
And then he showed me Tripp. This is an immersive app that focuses on meditation and intentional breathing and thinking. It was just as fascinating as the action packed games, but it had the opposite effect on me: I was cradled down into a totally restive state. Absolutely riveting.
The premise of Saber Beat is simple enough: Cut up the colored cubes as they fly toward you. Do it on tempo with the rhythms of the music, and perform the slices in the direction indicated on any given block. It’s very similar in concept to games that require you to stomp on pads to match colors. However, this is for arms, not feet. And even more amazing: You are playing the game with light sabers!
The game is set up like a tunnel where you are in a fixed position, facing down a long hallway. As the music begins, your light sabers extend, and when you overlap them (they are “projected” outward from the handles you’re gripping), they vibrate with electricity. With every correct slice, you will also feel a reverberation. So the game is also interesting for the haptic experience.
The scenes are gorgeous, the levels vary from Easy to Expert+, and you can download music bundles, if you don’t care for the free songs the app provides as default content. My favorite bundles are Lady Gaga, Interscope Mixtape (which includes “Don Cha” by the Pussy Cat Dolls and “Sugar” by Maroon 5), Electronica Mixtape (which includes “Stay the Night” by Zedd), and Imagine Dragons. What is particularly gratifying is when you learn a combination well enough to stop thinking, and then realize that someone who understands choreography created the patterns. It is utterly delightful to realize that the game is forcing you to wave your hands up like you’re at a concert full of LGBTQ folks while Lady Gaga is belting out “I was born this way, hey!”
This is a classic shooter game. You use the handles as guns, and you point and shoot. But what is new within VR is that you have to physically dodge walls, people, and bullets. The game will literally put you into Matrix Bullet Dodge mode, and I absolutely love it. When an enemy is targeting you, a red line will extend out toward you from their own pistol. The shots come from all sorts of directions and angles, so moving around those bullets creates the type of modern dance I wish I could create on my own. In fact, this would be an excellent choreography tool. Have someone video record you from the outside, then try to recreate the movements you did while you were inside the game. I would be willing to bet that it would look fascinating.
Also, the leg work. Oh, my God. To get under and around all the projectiles, you will have to lunge, squat, pivot, and hinge until you have to stop for a water break. My thighs got numb. Some people might not care for that. But I’m a masochist on some level, I think.
This app envelops you inside a brilliantly colorful womb of peace. The calming voices and music. The mesmerizing kaleidoscope of shapes. The psychedelic landscapes. All of it together is hypnotic. And when you allow yourself to float around inside its gushy universe, you might find that the app has distracted you away from all your stress. It lulled me into a fascinated gaze that ignored everything else racing in my brain. This is so chill. So, so chill.
First, and probably most importantly, it is VITAL that you have at least a six foot square space for gaming. This space needs to be perfectly level, stable, and clear of all objects. The VR is very disorienting, and you can very easily injure yourself. You do not want to punch a wall, or fall over a chair. I would very strongly suggest you give yourself much more open space. I am going to dedicate the center area of my second bedroom to VR gaming. The workout equipment will fit nicely along the walls, so I should have at least a nine-by-nine, if not ten-by-ten spot.
I had to get a battery pack, because I play for hours at a time. I have that kind of flexibility in my schedule. For other people, I would definitely recommend you set a timer. It is astonishing how much time passes in the real world while you are singularly engaged in the virtual world.
You really must stay hydrated. I have overheated a couple times after not taking water breaks. You can forget that this is essentially an extended conditioning session. This is particularly important if you use one of the apps that is specifically for working out. There are several boxing apps available.
If, like me, you have gotten bored with traditional exercise, this is an excellent option. I highly recommend turning work outs into invigorating play time.