Great PC gaming moments are bite-sized celebrations of some of our favorite gaming memories.
I’ve played many different VR games since 2016 and I’ve played them on many different devices. I’ve tried Sony’s PlayStation VR headset, two different models of the HTC Vive, Valve’s Index, and two versions of the Quest. Games I’ve played include Minecraft (my very first time in VR), No Man’s Sky, Doom, Fallout 4 and Skyrim, as well as fishing games, kayaking games, battle royales, a whole bunch of VR MMOs and a lot more stealth gaming , in which I was so bad I owed the Australian government $200 million.
I’ve even played with training software designed for soccer players, where the sensors are strapped to your feet instead of your hands and you kick a virtual ball. Oddly enough, it was one of the best experiences of the bunch.
I’m one of the lucky ones: VR never makes me sick, whether it’s barrel rolling in space or jumping out of a plane in a battle royale. On the other hand, I was a bit unlucky that I never really got lost in VR. No matter how great it looks or plays, no matter what the visuals or sounds look like, I’ve never really been able to let my brain fool me. I’m always aware that I’m playing a game, wearing a headset, holding controllers, and shuffling around in a corner of my room.
VR can be fun, but it’s never been this compelling to me. I never felt transported. My brain never gave up and said, “This is reality.”
It happened in the last game I ever expected – Rick and Morty: Virtual Rick-ality (opens in new tab). I know right? You would think that in order to forget the real world and embrace a virtual world, that virtual world would have to be photorealistic. It would have to be visually convincing enough for your brain to accept. It certainly couldn’t be a game where you stand in a garage while cartoon characters curse at you. But oddly enough it was.
In Rick and Morty: Virtual Rick-ality, you’re basically just hanging out in Rick’s garage tinkering with stuff. Solve puzzles, conduct experiments, throw things around, break whatever you can, and occasionally go through portals. But mostly you’re just in a cartoon drawing of a garage trying to get Rick to stop yelling at you and figure out what’s all doing.
But at some point, after about 40 minutes of opening drawers, pouring drinks, putting stuff in the washing machine, fixing things, and breaking more stuff, I had to bend down to read a note that was roughly at floor level. For support, I reached out my right hand to lean against the counter, but of course the counter wasn’t there. I was in a virtual garage, not a real one. And instead of the counter there was empty space, so instead of stabilizing, I fell forward, stumbled a few steps, and collided with the extremely real closet door in my room.
It hurt and I felt like an idiot, but it was the first time in a VR game that my brain just accepted a virtual reality as real. I think a big part of the reason has nothing to do with how photorealistic a game is, but how interactive a game is.
The Rick and Morty game may look cartoonish, but there’s so much stuff to pick up and play with, and objects behave as you would expect. If you want to open a bottle and pour out the contents, you pull off the cap and turn the bottle upside down. There are buttons to push and levers to pull and drawers to open and things to pick up and use everywhere. It doesn’t look like the natural world, but it is acts like nature (aside from all that silly sci-fi stuff), and I think that was key to getting my brain to accept that a drawing of a countertop is a real countertop. As awesome as Half-Life: Alyx is, it never fooled my brain quite like that — but a Rick and Morty cartoon game absolutely did.