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Losing my VRginity to: Star Wars

In the months since VRFocus launched we’ve heard from many interesting figures in the virtual reality (VR) space as they openly discussed their first experience with the immersive technology. From Matt Sonic’s adventures in Dactyl Nightmare to Nick Pittom’s love loss in the 1980s and eventual return to the fray with the Oculus Rift development kit, there’s been some fascinating stories that have lead to many of these people becoming fully invested in VR as both a hobby and a career. After nine other VR enthusiasts have taken the time to share their stories, I thought it was about time I offered VRFocus‘ readers mine.

Despite having only worked in VR for a matter of months, my story stretches back over a decade. It’s true that I was interested in VR in the 1980s, though cost and distance proved to be hurdles too difficult to traverse. I so very much wished for VR to become a home-based entertainment product while still playing with a pixelated 8-bit Super Mario, but it simply wasn’t to be. And thusly, it wasn’t until I was an adult that I could make the decision to overcome distance and cost and eventually play a VR videogame. Below is my story.

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It was actually the most unlikely of relations. Having been a videogame hobbyist for the best part of two decades and just started my career as a journalist in said field, I took my first holiday abroad in a number of years. Heading to the sunshine state, Florida, I had visions to reliving the thrill-seeker adventures of my youth: rides. Them park rides. Dozens of them. All day, every day. And for the most part this wish came true. I spent several days frequenting Disney World and Universal Studios parks, as well as more casual affairs such as Wet n’ Wild. However, it wasn’t til I journeyed a little further a field that I would have the experience I’d never forget.

Though it may be well known to the locals and tourists who visit regularly, BuschGardens is a little off the beaten track. It’s a not-too-insignificant drive from the main attractions the Orlando area offers to holiday makers, but nonetheless it has a reputation for having some of the best theme park rides in the state, as well as being a very well presented animal sanctuary. I’d visited before, as a child, so I knew what to expect; however this time something was different. Something was new.

It wasn’t big nor loud. It wasn’t signposted nor highlighted on the map. It was simply a booth by the exit to one of the many high-speed rollercoasters. A booth that played host to four pods, gloves and VR helmets. I enquired what the deal was with the gentleman running the booth and was informed that it was in fact a Star Wars VR videogame. Of couse, I had to try it.

After paying the small additional sum required, myself and a colleague boarded the pods and were given the glove, a Wii Nunchuk-style controller and had the head-mounted display (HMD) placed upon us. From my time spent as a videogame journalist I could immediately tell that this was in fact a heavily customised version of Star Wars Jedi Outcast: Jedi Knight II. There were no firearms, only Lightsabers, but the character models and level design were identical. We moved around the arenas using the Nunchuk’s analog stick and could turn a full 360-degrees, thanks to the HMD. Our Lightsaber swings, however, were determined by the glove placed upon our right hands. And boy, did those Lightsabers hiss with adrenaline and aggression for the next five minutes.

 

Kevin Joyce is the editor-in-chief of VRFocus, and is passionate about the opportunities VR presents to both in-home entertainment and industry. Having started his career in journalism in 2003 he moved into VR in 2013, and is now fully committed to bringing all of the latest and greatest VR entertainment news and product coverage to a consumer audience.