Facebook announced thelast fall at the exact time to get my attention. After months of shelter in place during the first part of the COVID-19 pandemic, I was very tempted by affordable VR headsets that allowed me to explore the world outside my home. I wanted it for virtual reality workouts. I loved the idea of using it as a virtual and portable office. It came out a few weeks after Star Wars: Squadrons and promised to put me in the cabin of an X-Wing.
What finally pushed me was friendship. A friend of mine had recently moved to another state and convinced me that we could “hang out” at RV and have a drink together from time to time. Like the old days, but more nerdy. A perfect idea.
We never took that drink to VR. Instead, I had a baby.
As any parent knows, having a child changes everything. It restricts your freedom, robs you of your free time, and makes things simple, such as grabbing a controller and playing video games, almost impossible. That doubles, maybe even triple for virtual reality headsets, which not only require your time, but your full and undivided attention over long periods of time.
I knew it. I should have seen this coming. Not the baby (this was planned), but the useless that would become all my favorite consumer technology toys as a result of this new responsibility. Like many new parents, I underestimated how much work a newborn could have and overestimated how much free time I could devote to hobbies. When the child is awake, ask for his full attention. When it isn’t, there is an endless litany of baby-related tasks. When you’re done, it’s best to sleep or work, because you won’t have enough time to do it.
It’s not impossible to find time to fit video games and tech toys into a parenting program, but it’s different. Early in the morning, maybe I’d run away to queue up at my garage’s 3D printer. When my daughter falls asleep on her chest, I tell myself that as her bed makeshift, I’m immobilized and sneak in for a while with my PlayStation 4 or Nintendo Switch.
These distractions can be left in the moment the baby needs me. Craft projects can always be suspended. The modern sleep modes of the video game console will pause any game at any time. Virtual reality is different.
Virtual reality requires you to abandon the usual reality.
I’ve been trying to use the RV since I was the father of a newborn, and it hasn’t been easy. The space in my house, which was once reserved for virtual reality, now has a seesaw, a crib and several boxes of baby toys. There is still room for the minimum scale play space of Oculus Quest 2, but hardly. Even before I think about getting out of reality to play Beat Saber, I have to make sure my son is safe. My virtual reality session begins with your bedtime routine: playing, reading, changing, feeding, and hugging until you’re ready for bed.
When he’s finally in bed and wrapped up, I feel safe putting on my virtual reality headset. I sleep within reach of my ear and should be able to take my hat off if I need to. The first time I tried it, I discovered that the Quest 2’s battery was exhausted, neglected from the week it was born.
This is about me.
The second time, the baby changed his mind when taking a nap moments after putting on my headset. A third time, later that day, I heard a song less than a minute before I heard the noises of the baby bastard. My life works according to its schedule and its schedule has no room for virtual reality.
So far, I’ve only tried to use the RV during my “shifts” as a parent. While watching my wife, I am usually at work or busy with household chores. However, after repeated failures in juggling both a baby and an extremely distracting high-tech blindfold, my wife took pity on me and rearranged her night to give me 25 minutes of reality. virtual. That’s enough time to warm up 10 minutes at Beat Saber and about 15 minutes of high-intensity cardio at Thrill of the Fight. I found it okay to move around, squat, dance, dodge, and punch. I had missed dancing idiotically and enjoying the little lie that my active RV games counted as a real workout.
But it was not worth it. The next morning I woke up sore. My upper back, elbow joints, and rotator cuffs hurt. My body exploded in pain as I pulled my stepped daughter out of the cane. I managed to find time for virtual reality, but it was physically harder to be a new parent.
I bought my Oculus Quest 2 to live up to the coronavirus pandemic, hoping it could transport me out of our stressful world and into a better place, even if only for a moment. I still need a means of escape: a way to pause with the stress of the world and the pressure of being responsible for a completely new person, but it can no longer be virtual reality.
Oculus Quest 2 is a bandage that allows me to visit virtual worlds, but it also takes me out of my daughter’s world. I can’t do that.
Having children made habitual reality too real for a virtual existence to be worthwhile. Maybe there will be time for virtual reality when it grows up. For now, I’ll have to settle for the digital leaks I can pick up and drop in a moment. Simple smartphone experiences. Collection games and game on Nintendo Switch. Maybe, if I’m ambitious, PC games on the Valve Steam Deck.
If all else fails, there is a stack of perfectly stacked children’s books next to the seesaw.