First Click: The scariest place on Earth is inside an Oculus Rift

June 17th, 2015

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Some people like to be scared. They’ll happily pay for the experience inside a movie theater or haunted house because it’s fun. Fun. Not me, and definitely not in virtual reality.

VR is shaping up to be the scariest place on the planet. Searching for “Rift” on Vine reveals nothing but people freaking out in horror. Check YouTube and you'll find montage after montage of PewDiePie ripping off his headset after jump scares.

Good VR creates an experience. It makes you feel like you’re participating instead of spectating. Horror in VR is intense because it’s so immersive — it simply feels more real when zombies, monsters, and ghouls get really close to your face. And 3D positional audio has the capacity to put the footsteps and screams of the damned into every dark corner. Generally speaking, a VR version of horror will always be scarier than the non-VR version.

Unfriended producer James Blum also worries about the increased intensity that VR brings to horror:

"I’m dying to do a scary thing in virtual reality. I mean, I think it would be too intense. I think you could honestly make something that would just be too much. I think that that’s going to be the challenge, is how to keep it fun and not just too much."

Over the last three years, I’ve experienced a full range of emotions from boredom to bliss and trepidation to terror while strapped into a variety of VR headsets. On a fear tolerance scale that slides from boss to baby, I’m definitely a toddler: easily frightened and afraid to be alone in the dark. I tried playing Bioshock a few years ago in front of a flat 30-inch monitor. I quit just as soon as I came upon a "Little Sister" repeatedly stabbing a corpse with an uncomfortably thick hypodermic needle the length of an arm. I can still remember my exact thoughts:

Fuck this.

I never played again. I even irrationally deleted the game for safety. And that was just a 2D representation of 3D using ordinary PC speakers. There’s no way I’m going to jack my senses into the dark isolated city of Rapture — the $1,500 or so required to buy my first VR headset and peripherals will be punishment enough.

For Adi Robertson, Amnesia is the game she fears in VR. Rich McCormick won’t play Outlast.

What about you — what game do you fear?

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