As a child, I watched men walk on the moon and robots on Mars, but never would I have guessed that one day I’d be physically interacting with those historic moments through virtual reality. Yet here we are: the first consumer version of Oculus Rift has landed and it’s not even 2018 yet (it was released earlier this month). The bad news though is that space isn’t as readily available as you might imagine: there is no space suit like in Ready Player One, nor can you take floating rides to other planets in your living room; however, what you CAN do is visit the International Space Station (ISS) in Virtual Reality (VR)! Well, technically you also can go to Mars too if that’s more your speed-just don’t expect to be able to jump over virtual craters because it’s all in 2D (no throwing fireballs either).
The game I tried out at the Oculus Store is called First Contact. After you’ve purchased it ($9.99), go ahead and plug your Oculus Quest into your computer, open up the Oculus storefront app, type in Oculus First Contact in the search bar, download it, put on your headset, and prepare yourself for a VR experience that took me back to my childhood years of watching Carl Sagan/Bill Nye with fascination while eating cereal before school.
It was an excellent exercise! My mission started off by putting on a spacesuit (with gloves!) and playing around with all the buttons/gizmos inside the airlock. I pressed buttons, found the only snack in the room (in-game), and even tied my shoelaces. But before I knew it was time to walk through the next door into space, there were two astronauts who greeted me on either side of the airlock’s pedestal with big smiles on their faces. It felt like I was in a Star Trek episode. There was no gravity in the room, so I had to test out all sorts of different movements: jumping (which is done by holding down both joysticks simultaneously), crawling backwards (on your hands and knees!), and steering myself with my head’s gaze direction. Since we’re not used to having weightless bodies here on Earth, the controls took some getting used to-I kept bumping up against objects and floating out into space without realizing it. Eventually, I learned how to use the thrusters and began orbiting around the ISS at warp speed! Within about 5 minutes of playing around, I felt like an astronaut; that feeling of awe never left me. It made me want to do research on NASA/the ISS and prepare myself so that I can go to space one day: they need people like me!
The graphics were fine, but not as high-quality as those in my favorite VR game Beat Saber (which is still the only full-length VR game I’ve completed). Either way, my experience with First Contact was enough to hook me into buying a copy for my own Oculus Quest. If only it had more games like this one! Maybe then my parents will stop shaking their heads at me when I tell them that I’m “only” majoring in Public Relations instead of Engineering or Science!
*Puts on virtual reality headset* *Makes winning shot while playing basketball against Michael Jordan* *Removes virtual reality headset**Finds mom and dad proudly smiling, with a congratulatory note in each of their hands* *Reads congratulatory notes: “We’re so proud of you!”*
5/5 stars! I’d definitely recommend it to anyone who is interested in learning about space or astronauts or has ever watched Cosmos on television. It’s educational and fun at the same time!