Freshman Avi Bhullar riding a virtual roller coaster.

New Oculus Rift enthralls students and faculty

Freshman Avi Bhullar tries Dreadhalls, an original horror game for the Oculus.

My lantern’s running out of fuel, I have no idea where I’m going, and I’m pretty sure that gargoyle is getting closer every time I look away. The walls may look pixelated, but the terror is real. That’s the power of the Oculus Rift.

The Oculus Rift is a HMD (Head Mounted Display) developed by Oculus VR, Inc. The company seeks to provide an HMD that the everyday gamer can afford, a feat that isn’t too challenging since its current price is $300 and its only other competitor, the Sony HMZ-T2, is priced at a cool $1119.

Though the consumer version of the Oculus hasn’t yet been released, a developer’s kit was given to all who donated more than $300 to the company’s Kickstarter and was later sold on their website for the same amount.

Senior David Myers ordered a dev kit because he saw an element of “collectability” in the Oculus.

“I saw that the Oculus was going to change media and, therefore, by getting this first edition, it would be like getting the first computer before computers hit the market,” Myers said.

Meyers brought the Oculus Sept. 11 for me and a few members of the Octagon staff to try.

He had five games available: a skydiving game, a virtual roller coaster, a short adventure game, a space simulator and a horror game. Most students chose the horror game or the roller coaster.

First up was freshman Avi Bhullar, who tried both the roller coaster and the horror game. While she had no trouble playing the roller coaster (it moves automatically on a loop, so no user input is required), she found the horror game challenging.

The goal of the horror game is to escape from a dimly lit maze without being killed by the creatures (or as I originally thought, creature) that inhabit it.

Bhullar managed to last for several minutes before being killed by one of those creatures, a stone gargoyle that moves only when the player looks away. Much of her play time was spent screaming.

Junior Grant Miner plays Aaaaaaculus, an Oculus-ready port of a 2011 skydiving game

“It was so intense, especially with the horror one. I felt like I was in a haunted house,” Bhullar said.

Next was teacher Patricia Fels, who opted for the roller coaster. Despite the game being completely passive, she seemed shaken by the experience (the final count was 12 “Oh, God’s” and eight “Oh, Jesus’s”).

“What kind of fool would go on a rollercoaster when it’s raining?” she cried at one point. “Is it going to lightning? Is this not the horror one?”

But I started out with more confidence. Within seconds of beginning the horror game, I was walking through the passages, sure that I knew what I was doing. I also assumed that the gargoyle was the only thing in the maze.

I was wrong.

As it turned out, there is another: a decaying corpse that chases players when they approach. It didn’t even have to kill me. Too scared to continue, I decided to try something else.

While most liked playing with the Oculus, some, like freshman Daniel Hernried, were frustrated by the equipment.

Freshman Austin Talamantes plays Dreadhalls.

“It’s much harder to play the games when you’re wearing a big obnoxious visor,” Hernried said.

Freshman Elena Lipman, who also tried the horror game,  said that she felt dizzy when she wore the Oculus, although Myers said that this is normal for first-time wearers and usually subsides within a few minutes.

 Immersive as it is, it’s plain to see that those with little gaming experience don’t get as much fun out of the Oculus as those who play avidly. It’s hard enough for people to whom PC gaming is familiar to keep their fingers on the keys, let alone someone who never plays. Even I had to look down once or twice to see where my fingers were.

Teacher Patricia Fels takes a ride on the virtual roller coaster

Despite that occasional difficulty, everyone seemed to give the Oculus their seal of approval, even Fels, who pointed out its health benefits.

“I used to love riding on roller coasters, but now I’m afraid of throwing my back out because I’m old,” she said. “It’s kind of cool to be able to go on a roller coaster without worrying about your health.”

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