Oculus Rift and Star Wars: A Gamer’s Dream
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The year of our Lord, ninteteen hundred and eighty. Not only did it bring us Pac-Man in the arcade, it also delivered Star Wars: The Empire Strikes back in the theaters. My grandfather took me to see it, and holeeeee sheeeet. Empire. I remember walking out of the theater, unable to stop my mouth from moving: Darth Vader is Luke’s father? He’s gotta be lying! I can’t believe Han is frozen in carbonite! Did you see those Imperial Walkers? I wanna live in Cloud City! Luke has a robot hand now, does that mean he’s turning into Vader? How long until the next Star Wars?
When I finally had to stop talking so I could breathe, I looked up at grandpa Sharkey, the tough-as-nails Korean War veteran, and saw a huge smile on his lined face. He hadn’t been to the movies in years, he would tell me on the ride home, and he had no idea what film makers could accomplish with special effects. “Incredible,” is the word he kept using to describe it. “Incredible.” Pretty telling when a 50 year old and a six year old walk out of a movie together and are both equally astonished.
A few years later, my love of games and all things Rebel Alliance was captured perfectly by Atari’s sit-down arcade dream, Star Wars. The vector graphics were dull, but being in the pilot seat of an X-Wing and going on the Trench Run, Obi-Wan telling me to, “Use the force,” was mind-blowing. Atari: congrats on earning my entire allowance for the year in 1983, one quarter at a time.
Gaming and Star Wars have danced together dozens of times since then with a few highs (the Super Star Wars series on the SNES, the Dark Forces series, Battlefront, and Knights of the Old Republic), but none truly captured the magic for me like the Star Wars: X-Wing franchise. It was the Star Wars arcade experience only with gorgeous graphics instead of green lines and complete pilot control instead of on-rails shooting. The first X-Wing was released when I was in college, and I gladly missed many a class to join the Rebel Alliance and do my duty against the Empire. The trend continued when, a year later, I joined the dark side for Star Wars: TIE Fighter.
Today, we’re at 13 years and counting since the last X-Wing (Alliance) shipped, and while I’ve really enjoyed a handful of Star Wars games in the interim, nothing has come close. Nothing with the official Star Wars label on it, that is. But when a dev at CCP Games placed the Oculus Rift on my head for the EVE-VR (EVR for short) demo at E3, he might as well have been handing me a Star Wars Rebel pilot helmet.
This was my first time using Oculus Rift, and I was instantly immersed. My fighter ship’s glowing cockpit instruments were laid out all around me, close enough to reach out and touch. Looking left and right, I saw the massive ships of my fleet. Best of all, when I looked down, I saw a gorgeously detailed sci-fi fighter pilot jump suit in place of my body.