The evolution of my digital self is inextricably linked to my life long love affair with video games. Like so many millennials born in the 80’s some of my fondest childhood memories are of my sibling and I duking it out as Ryu & Ken in epic Street Fighter Battles that lasted for hours. By the early 90’s the video game industry began going through in my opinion, its first true golden age. Sega and Nintendo were locked in a fierce battle for console dominance. I remember being around ten years old and watching Genesis calling out "Nintendon't" during a commercial on national television. At this point in my life it was the most gangster thing I’d ever seen. They just don’t advertise to children like they used too, because it’s illegal in my Country!
Whenever I got bored of console gaming at home (which was rare), all I needed to do was ride my bike to Pinocchio's arcade and dump massive amounts of quarters into Mortal Kombat with the sole purpose of ripping a man's heart out. T’was truly a magical time for emerging technologies. Which is why it’s no surprise that the concept of “Virtual Reality” began to tickle the consciousness of mainstream early adopters and hardcore gamers such as myself.
The first time I ever heard of VR was during the movie "Lawnmower Man". That was the movie about the mentally challenged landscaper who was mowing the lawn of a mad computer scientist that manipulated him into wearing an experimental VR headset, which gives The “Lawnmower Man” superhuman intelligence. I'm aware that the plot makes as much sense as an iPad app giving you laser eyes. However, the CGI in this film was way a head of its time and it also predicted how modern VR would look like and feel. For a prepubescent kid who just finished Zelda, the thought of wearing a computer screen on my face was incredibly appealing.
Unfortunately, even though everyone could clearly see virtual realities potential, there was no headset out on the market that came even remotely close to the hype. For the next fifteen years every attempt to produce a quality VR experience failed spectacularly. This was extremely frustrating considering Hollywood continued to tease us with movies like the Matrix, but virtual reality seemed like it would forever remain in the world of Science Fiction. The Nintendo "Virtual Boy" was such a masterpiece of crap it almost single handedly murdered the VR market before it ever even began!
Then the year 2016 came around and everything changed. Some genius realized that the latest cell phones on the market had panoramic viewing capabilities and could be used for basic VR gaming and video. Online streaming companies adopted this new medium quickly. It didn’t take long before you were able to insert your cell inside a folded piece of cardboard and watch 360 content on YouTube. This was definitely the absolute bottom of the barrel and could barely be considered VR. But it did have the fundamental mechanics to eventually support an amazing virtual gaming experience. I could feel it, the era of the Matrix was nigh! Within a year all my predictions were proven correct when the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive launched the first true consumer ready VR headsets. To my perverse delight history appeared to be repeating itself and the Oculus and Vive were giving off some serious Nintendo vs Sega vibes. I needed to be a part of this world, not just some spectator on the outside looking in. I wanted to be a part of a thriving VR community, whenever it existed.
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