PSVR made me fall in love with gaming
My childhood was reasonably disrupted – as an adult, I realise all my grown-ups were doing the best they could, but if we’re honest they were very flawed individuals.
I was a very smart kid who, through living circumstances became socially isolated. My grown-ups really didn’t know how to deal with that. I didn’t like sport, because while I was really smart, I didn’t really learn how to socialise. Other kids terrified me. Then there was the bullying – well you probably know how that goes. Eventually all of my grown-ups recognised something about me – if it didn’t run on microchips, I probably wasn’t interested. No one could hurt me while I was gaming and nothing else mattered.
Gaming became the thing I truly loved. It was my world – I could escape into my imagination and escape the nightmare that was dealing with other people. When I was 7, we had a second-hand Atari 2600, I don’t know how it happened, but at some point my step-mother replaced it with an Atari 5200. She didn’t like technology or games that much, but some of my happiest memories are of her are us playing Q-Bert and Pitfall together. My dad and I played Othello. Eventually we got ourselves a Commodore 64 and data cassette, and my mind was blown with games so awesome I don’t remember what I played (except vague recollections of Street Rod, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles). I remember we could never get Shard of Innovar to load, though.
When I was 10, I used my own savings to buy a Nintendo Entertainment System – I got the pack with Super Mario Brothers and Duck Hunt. My middle brother spent his savings on a Sega Master System, my youngest brother bought himself a Super Nintendo – some of my happiest memories were playing Street Fighter with my brothers. I remember there was 386DX40 with SoundBlaster Pro and CD-ROM drive – I played Wolfenstein, Sim City, Doom, Sim City 2000, was fascinated by directory structures, amazed by multimedia in Colliers Encyclopedia, loved Where is the World is Carmen Sandiego? Wing Commander, and Privateer were my PC favourites.
Growing up we were pretty poor, and we’d hire video game consoles for the weekend from the video store – my brothers and I played Sega Saturn, Game Cube, and the Dreamcast of course, but my favourite was the ubiquitous PlayStation. I was so blown away by WipeOut that when I got my first full-time job I saved a fortune and bought myself my very own PlayStation.
Having left home and got a decent job, I flirted with the PC Master Race for a while – this was a break from reality that I eventually recovered and got myself a PS2. I went to uni later in life and found being broke very hard. A good friend bought me a PS3 and Assassins Creed for my birthday one year, but my PS3 got used mostly for SingStar. When I resigned a mobile phone contract, the phone company gave me a Wii with my handset. I bought an Xbox 360 because I liked the look of Mass Effect. I got a Kinnect because I liked Just Dance. But, if I’m honest, while very fun, none of these really excited me.
After a while, gaming was just something I did from time to time. As my career grew, my gaming time seemed less of a priority. Partners and commuting, work stress and world travel all got in the way. One day I woke up at 37 wondering while my pile of shame was so high – I kept buying games in the hope that something would transport me the way those 8-bit dreams did back in the day. And, for all of their mastery, all of their technical sophistication, and genuine awesomeness – among the hundreds of games only Call of Duty 4 came close to the immersion of my childhood.
But through all this gaming history nothing, and I mean nothing has grabbed me the way PSVR has. When I read this morning that PSVR has sold 915,000 units as of the first week in February, I was thrilled. PSVR has transported me back to that sense of wonder I had as a child. 915,000 units in a little under 4 months – to put that in perspective, it’s 50% more than Occulus Rift and HTC Vive combined. I haven’t played either of these VR platforms, but I don’t need to to know that they’re good.
It’s not that VR has brought back a childish sense of wonder in gaming that I missed – VR made me realise that all of that time and effort and I money I spent chasing that my childhood sense of immersion was wasted because it never really existed. I was fascinated with the universe of Privateer, not the act of playing Privateer. Gaming immersion would happen for me away from the computer – I’d be thinking about the game on the bus to school, or in bed before I fell asleep. The games never felt as good as my memories of them – or that I could escape to them like a good book.
The truth is that while gaming was always fun for me, it wasn’t wonderful…
…Until I got my PSVR helmet that is.