I would like to tell you about a mortifying encounter I recently had with a very well known figure in video games. It’s a better story if you don’t know who it is until the end.
I was hanging around the Ubisoft booth at E3 this year, waiting for a private demo of Transference, the game developed in collaboration with Elijah Wood and his film company SpectreVision. It’s a thriller with a horror flavor that puts you inside computer-reconstructed memories, all glitchy and unstable, searching for a family that appears to have been swallowed by something sinister.
The game has been designed for VR, though it’s also playable without. It’s very much an immersive storytelling experience. I was a little wary. VR still makes me feel a bit sick. But on the insistence of the demonstrator, I decided to try and brave it in an Oculus headset. The E3 demo starts off in a creepy apartment stairway, where bits of memory are missing. Black voids pull at the scenery. The first thing you have to do is visit the dingy basement to retrieve a door knocker that’s hammering away all by itself (nooooo thankyou).
This was all a bit much for me already. I’m a gigantic wuss under normal circumstances, and even more of a gigantic wuss in virtual reality. VR horror/thrillers have a habit of making things jump out at you suddenly and I don’t like it. Apprehensive, I had to enter a family’s apartment, where snatches of a kid crying and panicked conversation started floating through my headphones. A light-switch on the wall turned the place into a nightmare parallel version of itself, with scrawled childish writing and distressing drawings all over the walls.
By this point I was frequently flicking my eyes downward toward the little gap between my Oculus headset and the floor. I was reminding myself that the real world was still there. When I get nervous, I get chatty. “I’m not sure I like this,” I said to the woman who had helped me put my headset on, hoping that she was still there. “Do I want to go in the kitchen? I’m not getting great vibes from the kitchen.”
Unfortunately I had to go in the kitchen and fiddle around with the radio, at which point a sinister black something with glowing eyes started glitching its way towards me. I noped out pretty hard at this point; I may have shouted “GET ME OUT GET ME OUT” until the demonstrator—who, thankfully, was still there—paused the demo so that I could finish it off on a good old two-dimensional screen without scaring myself witless. Relieved, I took the headset off and got through the last few minutes of the demo.
Then I turned around and saw that Hideo Kojima was standing there, along with a film crew that had a huge camera pointed at me.
It turns out that Kojima was being followed around by a documentary crew at E3 this year. He was ushered into the room while I was still blinkered by the headset and was waiting for me to finish before giving Transference a go himself. He, his camera-wielding entourage and the demonstrator all looked like they were trying not to laugh. I really hope they weren’t there when I was freaking out about a door knocker.
Let this be a lesson on the perils of playing in VR, when you can’t actually see what’s going on in the room around you. I look forward to my forthcoming fame as Blonde Coward From The Hideo Kojima Documentary.