I have seen the future of VR and it is Alyxellent!
We have been toying with VR for like the last two years. And we got some interesting experiences out of VR, for example, BeatSaber has become my exercise routine. However, so far, I have not seen anything that would have given me this “wow” experience that VR had always promised. BeatSaber is great, I absolutely love it, but it is a one-dimensional experience that is akin to something you would play at Arcades. In short, not unlike Space Invaders, just a lot more physically demanding.
So here comes Alyx – Alyx is a prequel or sequel (I am not sure) to the Half-life game series that have been popular in the early 2000s. Now for full disclosure: I have always been a fan of half-live and I could have written the same article 17 or so years ago by pointing out how half-live has changed the game industry (literally). So, it is with some excitement that I can proclaim that another title of the half-life series is changing the game industry – the virtual reality game industry that is.
VR is all about immersion. However, often than not, the experience is clumsy and just not that good. With Alyx this has changed. Here is a VR video game that gives you goosebumps. It feels so real that after you put on the headset, you are in the game. Nowhere is this more exemplified when you are in a room of this dystopian world with headcrabs and zombies around you and you frantically try to reload your gun.
You really get to the fight of flight basics. Like that time when I thought I had cleared a room of zombies only to realize that I forgot to check the bathroom. It is that good that this is a memory that escapes from an artificial world into the real world. I admit, I have dreamed about being in that world and it was a total nightmare to be sure. But so real is the world of Alyx that one can dream about it.
Don’ t get me wrong, it is not a nice world that Alyx portraits – it’s a world after an Alien invasion that has turned most of humanity into Zombies with the use of their “headcrabs” monsters. These “headcrabs” are like the “face huggers” from the Alien-movies series, except that they sit on top of your head and control your brain to turn you into a zombie. But that is not what is so exciting. It is the fact that the aliens (in the game portrait by “combines”) are also battling other species and among them a type of flora that seems to consume the world around you. That makes for some unbelievable imaginary that not only feels plausible, but it also reacts to your presence. Here are some in-game screenshots to illustrate my point (all taken from chapter 5 – in the Northstar Hotel)
We should all be playing Alyx – not because it’s a heartwarming game or anything like that (it’s not – it’s a nightmare) but because it points to a new direction for what VR can do and I think in another 17 years or so, we’ll be looking back from our “holodecks” and remember the time we had these ridiculous VR headsets on our heads but we’d probably acknowledge that Alyx had a significant impact on how we developed VR thereafter.