This is likely to come as no surprise if you know anything about me, but I’ve always had fantasies of being on stage and performing for thousands of cheering fans. I used to spend hours after school, dancing around in my room to the Spice Girls turned up loudly, pretending to be the sixth member of the most empowering pop group of my generation.
Unfortunately, my parents were not particularly keen on the idea of raising me as a child pop star (I had begged them) and thus my dream withered away as I matured. Rock Band VR brought me back to those afternoons in my room, however, and my brief experience with it was the most fun I’ve had yet with virtual reality.
I’m a believer
Virtual reality enables you to take the fantasy that’s been brewing in your consciousness and turn it into semi-reality. You can’t actually reach out and tangibly touch that dream world, but you can experience it in a way that it feels almost second-nature.
Rock Band VR is the perfect example of that. The minute that Paramore’s *Ain’t It Fun* started playing, I began having flashbacks of me in my room as a little girl. Rock Band VR made it so much better, though, because it offered a virtual crowd of people to cheer me on and a backup band to cover for me as I roamed the stage. The drummer wouldn’t even start the song until I looked behind me and gave him a nod, and my bassist frequently acknowledged my presence while we were jamming. All this stimulus managed to trick my brain into thinking the virtual environment I was in was *real* and it’s ultimately what helped me get into the zone. The crowd’s infectious cheering certainly helped, too.
I was really getting into it towards the end of the song, gesticulating with the guitar and even bringing my knees down to the floor in an attempt to do a rock star pose. And that’s when I heard, “I’m sorry but we have to stop the demo now.” An attendant came over and took the Oculus Rift off of my head. I was abruptly brought back to the real world and simultaneously mourning that my time as a rock star had ended.
Rock Band: The way it’s supposed to be played
Rock Band VR is a relatively simple game to play. If you’re familiar with the Guitar Hero or Rock Band franchises of yore, the objectives are similar, though they’ve been slightly tweaked for virtual reality. For instance, the game focuses more on your ability to keep the rhythm of a song rather than hitting the buttons at the right time, and that’s so you can freely roam the stage and peek at the crowd instead of worrying about where your fingers are on the guitar controller. There are also helpful hints in the game that appear on the neck of the guitar to let you know what’s coming up on the five-lane “note highway,” which has been revamped for this new version of Rock Band.
I’ve never been much of a fan of virtual reality. Since its mainstream debut, it’s felt sort of cost prohibitive — like it was only meant for hardcore gamers and early adopters. And after my unfortunate experience with Rage of the Gargoyles at Six Flags Discovery Kingdom, it had left a bad taste in my mouth. I thought for sure I was doomed to a lifetime of VR-induced nausea and thus, had committed myself to steering clear of the technology fad.
But my afternoon shadowing VRHeads managing editor, Russell Holly, changed all that — especially after playing Rock Band VR. I was on a high afterwards and now I realize why: Virtual reality is the key to unlocking the fantasy world inside my brain that I’ve been told all my life to suppress.