Let’s be honest: the only reason any of us are looking forward to the rise of commercially available, financially affordable virtual reality is so that we may break free from the shackles of the boring, never-ending slog that is reality. Maybe our virtual paradise will be a beautiful beach. More likely a world made entirely of perfect bums, but we can pretend we’re being highbrow here.
But even in a VR world, games like Job Simulator already exist – a game in which you strap on your expensive, gigantic piece of headwear designed to help you escape from the mundanity of existence, and… you go to the office. You file reports and string together paperclips and email HR over and over again about the broken heating even though you know it’s the only interesting thing that you get to do at work, and if the heating worked, you’d have no one to talk to, no battles to fight, and thus you would become obsolete and ultimately worthless.
Recently, a lot has been written on American Truck Simulator, a game in which you drive long haul journeys across the States, admiring the scenery and stopping a red lights. Naturally, people have already got it working with the Oculus Rift.
But what of the people who want different yet equally as mundane thrills? Why should we play Job Simulator and Street Cleaning Simulator when we can have something else – something you’d never experience in real life? That’s the whole point, isn’t it?
You could have Gap Year Simulator, for the kids who don’t have a spare couple of thousand and all the time in the world. Simulate backpacking in Thailand and picking up a venereal disease at a beach party, with none of the risk and none of the inoculations and none of the family shame – but all of the bragging rights!
Or perhaps you’d rather have that “Day In The Life” experience with Football Manager Simulator – you’ve played the statistics, now play the whole thing. Features standing grumpily by the side of a muddy pitch in torrential rain, yelling at young men to get a haircut and getting frustrated that none of them have sensible investments.
That said, maybe you like the relaxing repetitiveness of Job Simulator. If so, then you want the mundane, the kind of stuff that people find therapeutic in real life, like Ironing Simulator or Cross-Stitch Simulator. Sit down, grab a thimble, stick something cool on VR Netflix and pretend to cross stitch a giant picture of your grandma’s face. I think that’s what people usually cross stitch.
But my favourite idea is being able to do something in the safety of your own home that you could never do in real life. I’m not talking abseiling down a cliff or eating an entire lemon, I’m talking Falling Asleep On A Bus Simulator, Mooning The Toughest Bloke In Prison Simulator, or Walking Through Airport Customs With A T-Shirt That Says “I Like Bombs” Simulator. Daft stuff.
Wanting to find out how people would react to you without ever having to go to actual, real-life jail or be stabbed with a real-life toenail shiv.
Fantasy in games often means high fantasy – dragons and werewolves and chain mail that doesn’t have to protect more than your nipples. Sometimes, it means low fantasy – being able to climb inside a television, or smell crime. But when it comes to virtual reality, I’ll settle for really low fantasy. Ankle-Height Fantasy. The kind of fantasy people have when they just want a bit of spice without the risk.
No doubt these things will one day exist, because I imagine that VR software will go the same way as Steam games, in that there are lots and many are pants – and many involve pants. Boredom will never be as interesting as it will be in virtual reality.