So when we were in Toronto a couple of weeks ago, I went to Fairview Mall because…well, because I was in Toronto. Anyway, Samsung had a booth in the middle of the mall showcasing their new phone ($1300?!?!) and its virtual reality features. This included a VR trial – they had a chair that moves, the good goggles with the speakers inside, the whole bit.
I’d never tried VR anything before, and there was no lineup, so I thought I’d give it a go.
First, had to sign a waiver. Why?? The girl who was setting me up didn’t have a straight answer. It was a very Trump-esque, meandering answer that included the words insurance, mall, liability, blah blah. Of course, I realized a few minutes later it was for the heart attack I was about to have.
Anyway, the VR thing goes like this:
You sit in a chair, get strapped in, they put the goggles on your face, and then you’re basically looking at this screen. Girl says to me, “Look at the adventure you want, and it will load.”
But she was right. On the screen were “adventures” like roller coaster, ride through space, and a few other things.
I’m terrified of roller coasters (a fear I developed in my old age, because I’d ride those things like a beast when I was a teenager), but I thought, “How scary can it be when I know I’m sitting in the mall I grew up in just looking at it through goggles?” So I looked at the coaster option, and sure enough, it started to load.
Okay, so the video starts. Is that what’s it’s called? The video? The virtual reality experience? Whatever it’s called, now it’s happening. And it’s already freaking me out. The chair is shaking, I can hear the sounds of the ride and the amusement park around me, and no matter where I look, I’m on this ride, in this amusement park, with a blue sky overhead, people behind me, and a chick beside me who I’ve never seen before but she’s already having way too much fun.
As all roller coasters do, this one starts with that first big ascent. So it’s going up and up and up. Chair is rattling. The coaster is making noise. I swear, I can almost smell the cotton candy this thing is so real. I keep telling myself that it’s not, but my senses are being overloaded with what my eyes are seeing. And this chick beside me is still having a blast, though she won’t look at me.
I look to my right, and I can see the drop that’s coming. It’s this Leviathan-type drop, where I’m thinking that if this was real, I’d just fall right out of my seat, because there’s no way anyone can survive a drop that steep. But I’m in the mall. And I keep telling myself this. “You’re in the mall. You’re wearing goggles. This isn’t real.” But it is real. It’s insanely real. It’s so freaking real, that as the coaster crested the top of the hill, I ripped the goggles off my face and shrieked, “I can’t! It’s too scary!!”
The girl who set up me was standing in front of me, and her jaw dropped. “Why did you take them off?! It was just getting good!!” That’s when I realized there was a screen above my chair, showing the small crowd that had gathered exactly what I was seeing. So they all saw me rip off the goggles just as the coaster crested the top of the hill.
Another person may have been embarrassed to have been caught being terrified into submission by a virtual reality game, but I’m too old for that. I said, “It’s too real. I can’t do it.” When she finally stopped laughing, the girl working the booth told me to try again. Maybe pick something less scary. She promised me I wouldn’t get hurt.
So next I tried the flight through space, something I’ve always wanted to do anyway. And honestly, it wasn’t scary at all. Probably because I couldn’t tell how real it was, because it’s something I’ve never done. And because I was all too aware that there was now a crowd watching me to see if I’d get through it.
I got through it. And it was fine. They asked if i wanted to try the roller coaster again when my space flight was done, but I politely declined and got the hell out of that hot seat.
Even thinking about it now, there’s a voice inside my head that says, “You should have done it. Do it if you have the chance again. It’s not real and you won’t die.” But when I think about cresting that hill and seeing that fall that’s coming, my answer is still the same.
“No, thanks. No way in hell. No.”
If you’ve never tried VR before, be careful if you ever get the chance. Because even though it’s not real, it’ll scare the pants right off you.