In 2022, virtual reality can be an amazing experience. It can transport you to brand-new worlds or let you meet and socialize with thousands of people from around the globe. However, even after years of improvements, VR can still be a very messy, hard-to-explain, and often annoying experience, too. And the latest episode of Bob’s Burgers perfectly captures all of the problems that still face new VR players looking for some fun.
Over the weekend the most recent episode of Bob’s Burgers aired. For those who aren’t familiar with the animated show, which is now in its 13th season, the series revolves around an always-broke family that lives above their unsuccessful restaurant. Bob Belcher, the father, chef, and restaurant owner, is a grumpy but loveable straight man, while his wife Linda, two daughters, and son are more zany and quirky. The show is funny, filled with heart, and overall fantastic. (The Bob’s Burgers movie is also great.) Anyway, back to the show’s newest episode, which focused on Bob and his young son Gene experiencing—and suffering—with VR.
When a virtual reality arcade opens up next to the diner, Bob and Gene are both excited. However, the place charges $45 an hour. Gene decides to use his savings, nearly $100, to pay for him and his dad to both enjoy an hour of VR fun. The night before they go, Gene has a dream depicting what virtual reality often looks like in movies or TV shows. He flies around as a superhero, exploring space and saving the day. It’s a perfect paradise where anything can happen and everything works. This is how VR is often portrayed in media, ignoring just how rough this stuff can be, especially for people who have weak stomachs.
However, when Gene and Bob actually arrive at the place to play VR things quickly go downhill. The actual games are hard to play, look bad, and break constantly. Bob discovers that he’s not well suited to VR as he quickly gets motion sick and feels awful while playing. Gene struggles with the controls and glitches. During one game their virtual arms break and bend behind them. Another time their limbs swap as they try to climb a mountain. Gene also complains about his VR goggles fogging up and getting blurry. It’s a disaster, and with no refund policy the best the guy running the place can do is give them another hour tomorrow, once he’s fixed things a bit.
Of course, tomorrow comes and they return and everything is still bad. While trying to play a Beat Saber-like rhythm game everything breaks so badly that both Gene and Bob want out. However, the store owner has gone outside to take a call and neither of them can figure out how to remove their headsets. Trapped in VR, Bob and Gene have a conversation that ties into the bigger theme of the episode—how we all make mistakes and sometimes it’s best we learn from them—before eventually, Gene begins having fun with the broken game.
This reminded me of a time when I played PSVR and a game broke, but I ended up having more fun exploring the horrible impromptu interactive nightmare than I did playing the real game. And though Bob is feeling awful during all of this, he stays in VR with his son to enjoy this broken world with Gene.
Not only was this a solid and cute episode of Bob’s Burgers, but it was also probably the most authentic and realistic depiction of gaming in VR I’ve seen in a movie or TV show. The moment when Bob wanted to take off his headset because he felt ill but couldn’t figure it out reminded me of times when I’ve had people try VR at my house and watched them panic for the same reason. The visuals of the fictional games seen are also very on point. It feels like whoever wrote this story has played (and suffered) in VR in real life. Maybe if someone hooked Bob up with Job Simulator in VR, so he could cook in a kitchen, he could have a better time.