Virtual reality is mid — all my Meta Quest 2 does is gather dust

RamonCarretero

The Oculus Quest 2, or Meta Quest 2 for the new breed of VR adopters, is the dustiest thing in my apartment. What should have been my portal into strange new worlds of immersion and excitement is, in fact, nothing more than a clunky paperweight. Or, something to include in the background of review photos to indicate “Hey! Look! This other thing has something to do with gaming.”

Was it always like this? Was I not swooned and swept off of my feet by Meta’s virtual reality headset at some point? I’ve had my fair share of fun with the headset, no doubt. But it’s never really been the game-changing bit of kit it was promised to be. In fact, truth be told, to borrow a phrase from our Gen Z overlords, virtual reality in general is actually kind of mid.

Virtual reality: The promise of something new 

Picture, if you will, my first moments with the Meta Quest 2. Carefully lifting it from its cardboard enclosure one drab and dreary evening hoping to be catapulted into a new world of endless wonder. Here in my hands was a portal to a new realm where even a regular Joe Schmo like me could become a digital daredevil, a regular E-vel Knievel if you will.

I strapped myself in and signed my soul and firstborn child away to a terms of service agreement I never bothered reading — eager to enter this new world. A world that skirts the boundaries of our mortal realm and the unmatched potential of a digital infinitum.

A cyberverse where anything is possible, and creators are constrained only by their imaginations — and whether or not a tutorial on how to do it has been uploaded to YouTube by a 13-year-old child in India.

And suddenly there I am. I’m on a desert terrace in the midst of giant red rock caverns. A palm tree gently sways to my left as the sun sits half-sunken on its way to a distant horizon. I’ve made it, I’m one with the Metaverse now, boys. Or am I? What exactly is the Metaverse? What am I supposed to do in this place? And my god is that a poorly optimized JPEG of a hot-air balloon hard plastered onto the skybox? 

Metaverse social interaction

(Image credit: Meta)

Social awkwardness 2.0 

The Metaverse is actually a completely separate colorful playground just waiting to be explored. The problem is, as a man in my 30s, being anywhere near a playground raises more societal red flags than a Chinese state military procession. And by playground, I mean playground. The Quest 2’s social spaces are more digital crèche than anything else — filled with tweens taking virtual selfies of themselves and talking about YouTubers that I’ve no right to know exist.

The few occasions I did find people with a voice registering over the legal voting age weren’t any better either. Shuffling your lifeless Playmobil shell over to another’s and trying to start a dialogue is more uncomfortable than tight underwear on the hottest day of the year.

However, awkwardly striking up a conversation without the words “Free Candy” appearing on the forehead of your memoji-like avatar is just the first hurdle. Keeping the conversation going is a whole other mountain to climb. I find it really kills the vibe of social interaction when it feels like you’re doing it with a swampy trash can on your head. Not to mention while staring into the lifeless projection of a cartoon puppet with less expressive range than a Botox enthusiast.

Metaverse, Shmetaverse 

Anyway, ignore whatever snake oil Zuckerberg is trying to sell you about the Metaverse. The Meta Quest 2’s primary function is gaming, and its library of titles gets more formidable by the month. There’s a little something for everyone on the Oculus Store, though it is hard to justify the purchases of most titles when their Steam equivalent can be found for a fraction of the price in regular sales.

Still, gaming on the Meta Quest 2 is fun. I guess? It’s a new spin on an old gaming perspective and some of the inventiveness on show for the medium is genuinely impressive. But not in a “Wow, this will revolutionize the world as we know it!” kind of way. More in a, raise your eyebrows momentarily and exhale heavily out of your nose for a moment before returning to your regular zombified screen hypnosis stare, kind of way. It’s just alright. It’s fine. It’s mostly entertaining.

Of course, it’s also hard to get too into the motion of things as you wonder if Mark Zuckerberg is somehow secretly tracking your health metrics — eager to rat out your elevated heart rate to insurance firms the world over for a pocketful of coin.

“I’m sorry Mr. Hornby. Our life insurance policy isn’t available to you at the minute. We’ve grave concerns over you pushing 190 beats per minute after 10 seconds of climbing a ladder in The Walking Dead: Saints and Sinners.” 

VR headset wearer being passed a sick bag

(Image credit: RealityRemake)

Side effects may vary 

However, if you still want to risk it, prepare for sensory overload as your body attempts to keep up with your lying eyes. So enthralled you’ll be with the neon visual sugar of Beat Saber, or the slow-motion dynamics of Superhot VR that you’ll barely register the rapidly accumulating sense of motion sickness surreptitiously snaring your system. 

Before you know it your stomach will be churning like a souped-up Slushie machine, forcing you to call time on your activities before your next VR experience is “cleaning up vomit off the floor simulator 2023.”

At which point, pulling the headset from your face will emit a plume of stale tropical humidity into the room as your tacky brow gasps for air from every pore. Your next task will be shaking off the feeling that Hulk Hogan has just released you from the clutches of an hour-long front face lock as you try to hold down your lunch.

Outlook

Head abuzz, stomach churning, and eyeballs sufficiently dry and irradiated you return to the real world — back to the humdrum palette of reality, no longer backlit by 100 nits of brightness from every angle. It’s here that you’re left to crash out somewhere and “recover” from what is supposed to be an enjoyable experience.

Is the Meta Quest 2 a bad system? No, and for the price of the headset, it’s more than worth the investment if VR is really your thing. But if every time I want to trip the light fantastic across a fantasy realm for an hour or two means I spend the rest of my night trying to stop my eyes from spinning and my stomach from spilling, putting it back on just doesn’t seem worth the cost.

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Rael Hornby
Content Editor

Rael Hornby, potentially influenced by far too many LucasArts titles at an early age, once thought he’d grow up to be a mighty pirate. However, after several interventions with close friends and family members, you’re now much more likely to see his name attached to the bylines of tech articles. While not maintaining a double life as an aspiring writer by day and indie game dev by night, you’ll find him sat in a corner somewhere muttering to himself about microtransactions or hunting down promising indie games on Twitter.