The Beginner’s Guide to Virtual Reality

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VR absolutely rules. We’re not pushing it as the next generation of games by any means, or a possible next step for the internet, but we think it’s a pretty cool toy to play with if you’re looking for a game that literally keeps you on your toes. But getting started is half the problem. Fear not, because we’re here to guide you through your VR journey.

I’ve had a VR headset for about a year now: it’s an Oculus (now Meta) Quest 2, a nice, affordable headset that doesn’t require you to buy any accessories (although there are a I consider essential, more on this later).

During that time I played the best golf game I’ve ever known, an awesome sword fighting game with a Star Wars mod overlaid, built a VR farm and had a lot of fun playing play with guns in a virtual space. I even showed the gadget to my dad, which he really liked.

So where to start ? Here’s our beginner’s guide to virtual reality.

The beginner’s guide to VR

VR stands for virtual reality, used in modern context to describe a headset that allows you to virtually enter a 3D space. It’s different from augmented reality, mixed reality, and modified reality technology.

10 (or even five) years ago, virtual reality was considered a major gadget. Not only was the technology expensive and a bit buggy, but there weren’t many games.

Well, not today. Many games are now available for VR headsets, from VR ports of popular RPGs to full-fledged VR games.

Where to start ? Well, consider incoming purchases (there will be a lot).

Do you really want an RV?

I’ve often heard other gamers say they wouldn’t use VR that much. And you know what: right! If you don’t use the VR headset often enough to justify the purchase, don’t justify the purchase.

VR headsets are cheaper than before, but they still aren’t cheap. The Meta Quest 2 (which we’ll be using as an example a lot in this article, both because I own one and because it’s the most comprehensive casual headset) starts at $480 on Amazon. That’s the price of a Nintendo Switch, plus a first-party Nintendo game. It’s also the price of a decent graphics card or even the Xbox Series S.

But if you are looking for something gaming related that will get you physically active, then definitely consider buying it.

But which VR?

Good question! As a quick answer, we recommend the Meta Quest 2 ($479). the Quest 2 is a complete and (relatively) affordable VR headset, perfect for a beginner or occasional user who does not want to install motion sensors in the room. Soon you won’t need to use a Facebook account to play on the headset, which is great.

If you’re looking for something a little more high-tech (but also more expensive), then you’ll want to pick up the Valve Index VR Kit (released later this month for $1,900) or the HTC Vive Pro 2 Kit. ($2,199). These offer improvements over the Meta Quest 2, such as finger tracking and higher resolution screens, but they’re nowhere near as affordable as the humble Quest 2.

If you’re playing on a PlayStation, your only choice is the proprietary PlayStation VR headset ($269), which is compatible only with PlayStation tech. Xbox consoles do not currently support virtual reality.

Got your RV? Great! Let’s set it up

To set up your RV, you’ll need a wide open space (get it, move your couch. My shins still haven’t forgiven me). For some VR kits, such as Index or Vive kits, you will need to install cameras in the corners of the room (to track your movement). With the Meta Quest 2 and some other VR headsets, motion tracking is completely self-contained, so you won’t have to worry about it.

Once that’s set up and your headset (and its accessories) are all charged, you can strap in and get the hardware ready for play, following the steps shown to you during the setup phase.

Once done: welcome to VR! We are ready to start and you will be ready to start installing VR games.

Choose how you play games

The experience in this section is mostly based on my own time with the Meta Quest 2, so be prepared for it to differ from yours (especially if you have a different headset).

The Meta Quest 2 includes enough power to run games on its own, allowing you to play golf, sword fighting, and play a limited assortment of games, all using only the headset, no console or computer required.

These games, however, are often slow, buggy, or with limited functionality. They’re nice to take on a trip (side note: make not use your VR outdoors, the sun could damage the lenses) but connecting your headset to the computer will allow you to take advantage of the power of your PC, streaming games directly from the computer to the headset. It also gives you access beyond the Oculus Store, allowing you to play games from Steam.

To do this, you will need a high quality USB-C cable. Not just any USB-C cable, a super powerful and longer than usual called Link Cable. Meta sells his for… Jesus, $128. If that’s a bit steep for you, there are alternatives available (I picked this one up for $30 and it worked great).

Alternatively, if you have a powerful modem (like the Eero Pro 6), you can use your headset wirelessly and seamlessly connected to your computer. That’s what I started doing and it works great, no cable flying around.

Keep in mind that your computer will need to be powerful enough to run VR games, which will significantly increase the cost of the experience. You can get a pre-built PC capable of running VR games, but we recommend comparing the specs of your machine to the one we built in this guide. Otherwise, the games will struggle to run, if they work to begin with. If your computer isn’t going to cut it, you can obviously still play, because as we said earlier the Meta Quest 2 can run games internally without connecting to a PC. Not as good.

Choose your games

This is the fun part. I recommend starting with Defeat Saber, a rhythm game that lets you use your controllers like lightsabers to strike the notes of songs. Because the game only has a limited number of official songs, you’ll want to mod it for the best experience.

If you are looking for a fighting game, then Blade and sorcery is perfect for you (you can also turn it into a super cool Star Wars game).

If you’re looking for a shooter (with both robots and online multiplayer), I recommend VR contractors Where Pavlov RV.

Finally, if you are probably looking for the better VR game on the market right now, so it must be Half-Life: Alyxa single-player game with massive interactivity.

But wait! I want to vomit

Motion sickness can happen, it’s true. Although you’ll have to get used to it after a while, I recommend giving your VR headset a little break. Try not to use it too long, at least to start with. Don’t force yourself to be sick.

We think that’s all you need to get you started with virtual reality. That’s not a cheap effort, but we think it’s important to know that it’s a bit of a financial commitment, despite the fun of playing VR games.

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