My First Experience with Project Morpheus

Racing along you see the lighted track ahead of you. Turn your head left and you see the curve you’re supposed to hit. Turn your head right and there’s the void stretching out into the infinite. Look up and see the enemy you know you have to destroy. These aren’t just the erratic movements of your character, but your own eyes taking in the digital environment. Virtual reality transports you into a completely different dimension. It’s a gaming experience the world has only dreamed out — until now.

I was lucky enough to find myself at a GDC (Game Developers Conference) event in San Francisco. I guess a perk of living in one of the most expensive cities in America is how close you are to the heart of video games. The private event was being held at a friend’s work after hours. I jumped on a bus straight after work and headed to the venue. When I arrived, the entire bottom floor was flooded with developers and their precious projects. I made my way through the crowd admiring the various games being showcased, stopping occasionally to take note for later research. A bright light, tucked away in the back corner, caught my eye and piqued my interest. I beelined for the light, squeezing my way through the giants in the crowd. There, sitting at a reclaimed wooden table (a start-up essential), was Project Morpheus. I could barely contain my excitement as I joined the line. Of course, I had to wait more than an hour to travel into another world, but I’m not lying when I say it was utterly worth it.

Thumper was the game that had attracted my initial interest. At first, I thought it was a racing game in space. A track was lit up in neon colors and stretched infinitely into the black abyss. Hurtling through the abyss was, what looked like at first sight a car with legs! I wasn’t too far off, though. Thumper is known as a “rhythm violence game,” which sounds exactly like it is. You control the bug-car (really just a badass beetle) and crash through the lighted track in rhythm with a distinct audio pattern. What makes the game interesting is the dependency on both audio and visual gameplay. You need both to really excel. All of this makes Thumper a perfect program for virtual reality.

At last it was my turn. I stepped up to the cold, metal chair and took Project Morpheus from the game developer’s outstretched hands. I should probably note that this will probably not be an issue for most, but the headset and headphones didn’t quite fit me. Being just barely 5 foot 4 makes me “pocket-sized” and some adult tech dwarfs me. Sony thought ahead, though, and I was able to adjust the tech to my tiny head (strange for someone so egotistical.) My mind wasn’t blown at the very first moment. It looked more like a 3D movie screen than anything else. That quickly changed once the controller was in my hands. Immediately I was thrust into a strange dimension. Shapes, colors, and sounds danced all around me. I was dumbfounded within those first few seconds; I had never experienced anything like this in my life. Everywhere you turned was the game. And yes, I mean literally turned. I spun around in my seat to see what was behind me, to the side, and above me. It was all there. The game itself was noteworthy, but a little complicated in the beginning. Seconds before you charge ahead at the lights, a rhythmic pattern is heard in the distance. The pattern must be mimicked in your movements or else your little badass beetle dies. Thumper is amplified with the use of Project Morpheus. The game invokes more of your senses and leaves you breathless with its visuals. If you have a spare $399 lying around in October, make sure to purchase Playstation’s VR and make this game your first experience.

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This experience with virtual reality only added to my fervor of the future of gaming. Sure, there are some who believe that virtual reality will inevitably fail due to a multitude of reasons. A few of those reasons being the actual experience with the tech. I was a bit nervous to try out Project Morpheus, too. I didn’t want to succumb to motion sickness. But, I didn’t feel like I was watching an intense game on a screen; I really felt like I was there. I’ve seen others noting that the pixels are graphics are not as crystal clear. To be honest, it was a tad bit fuzzy, but we’re only in the beginning stages of this technology. And it wasn’t enough to deter me from playing again. I don’t think this will be a problem in the future, either. We’ve already accomplished so much in games, I can only see humanity going to greater and greater depths.
I failed spectacularly at getting through the game, but I’m going to chalk that up to alcohol and being awestruck. Thumper was the best way to jump into virtual reality; it surrounded you, played with your senses, challenged you, and excited you. This is only the beginning of virtual reality and it couldn’t be more beautiful. The more popular virtual reality becomes the more we will see a shift in the games being created. First-person shooters might lose their special place in the charts to make way for more games like Thumper. Games that go beyond a simple point and shoot. Games that throw you into an environment and let you explore and manipulate the world around you. Games that could change the way we’ve been playing for decades.