Some of the IGN staff managed to get some hands-on time with a virtual reality demo of Paranormal Activity VR from VRWerx. Their reactions playing the demo for the very first time in VR were recorded and broadcast for the entire world to see.
The video was posted up on IGN recently and the staff doesn't just include the editors working on game news but some of the people who work behind the scenes as well. Given that they weren't all hardcore gamers it meant that a lot of them weren't prepared for what they would face.
The video starts by introducing us to the basics of the demo and the staff playing it. It's all creepy but mundane at first, with a simple house there for the participants to explore. We see that they're using the HTC Vive and its wireless 3D positional controllers, with 1:1 tracking of the player's hand movements and depth-space rendering. This means that the players could move their hands around with the controllers and wherever they moved their hands in real life, it would appear that way in the game. That is going to make for some really, really, really awesome boxing and fighting games in VR.
Anyway, the staff explored the house as tensions slowly mounted, building like a crescendo swelling during a symphony orchestra. By the time the video neared the two minute mark all of the staffers were fidgety and pensive. By the time the video neared the three minute mark, the TV-MA language started spilling out like your typical HBO show.
Four and a half minutes in and the freak-outs started when the jumpscares came into play. One of the staffers just had to sit down and collect herself for a while. Near the end of it a frightened and almost crying product manager yelled out “I don't think I can do this!”
The whole exercise gets pretty harrowing. It's creepy enough playing games like Five Nights at Freddy's, Outlast or Slender: The Arrival and dealing with the scares those games provide without a VR headset. I can only imagine how terrifying it would be to feel as if you're actually there, seeing things in real time but being limited in how you're able to fend for yourself within the restricted world of virtual reality.
There were discussions previously about the dangers of VR with games specifically like Paranormal Activity VR and how developers need to be mindful of how stress-induced VR experiences could be hazardous to the health of some players.
I do wonder if there will be some kind of regulatory or warning labels setup for VR movies and games that may be too intense for some viewers? It's not always about blood and gore when it comes to VR, but just that feeling of terror and helplessness that could induce things like heart attacks given how intense some of these projects can be. For instance, a game like Outlast 2 is frightening even without an HMD. I can only imagine how much scarier it would be with the HTC Vive or Oculus Rift.
Paranormal Activity VR is due for release later this year for major VR HMDs.