Do you ever get the urge to act like a bit of a jerk in public?
I'm not talking about pure cruelty here, mind. I'm thinking more along the lines of knocking over an intricate row of dominoes while someone is carefully lining them up, or flicking the base of a house of cards just as the final one is about to be put into place. You'd never actually do something like that of course, but that little devil on your shoulder sure would like to see it happen...
How about wandering into a house party, downing a bottle of champagne in one go and then roaring as you smash the glass bottle against a wall? That kind of swagger is probably acceptable for high profile rock stars and over-the-top characters in raunchy teen comedies but for your normal everyday person? I don't think they could get away with it.
Imagining yourself doing crazy things like that is fun but acting on those impulses would see you swiftly ostracised by your friends and family. Not in VR though. In VR you can act like a total jerk in public and no one will bat an eyelid.
Let's take Job Simulator for instance. Job Simulator is a brilliant game that allows you to scratch that mischievous itch in a really satisfying way. In Job Simulator you participate in simulated occupations like store clerk or gourmet chef. Your customers are robots and you have to perform menial but comical tasks in order to keep them happy.
It's the ability to act like a complete and utter troll that really makes the game though. Robot wants a burger for instance and yes, you can do that for him, but maybe you'll also serve it with a side order of toasted Compact Disc and a cup of cheese. While you're at it, you might as well throw an empty coffee mug at his face as well. Why? Because Robot won't care. As long as the main objective is complete Robot will float off, happy as Larry without giving a second thought to behaviour that, quite rightly, would have you arrested in the real world.
Job Simulator actively encourages you to indulge in a bit of weirdness. Everything from the mission structure to the presentation tempts you to act like the buffoon and engage in a bit of tomfoolery.
Sometimes however it's much more fun to act up in po-faced simulations that haven't been designed with mischief in mind. My recent Let's Play of The Exorcist: Legion VR is a great example of this. In that game you're meant to be roleplaying as a detective who is searching gruesome crime scenes in order to solve a paranormal mystery. The environments, however, are just detailed enough to allow you a certain level of leeway by which to cause mischief.
From casting vulgar shadow puppets on walls to sliding whole candles down my throat, these little diversions brought me just as much entertainment as the core gameplay did. Yes, many of my actions in that playthrough were highly inappropriate given the context of the situation, hell, given the context of any situation, but that just made being a jerk all the more enjoyable.
Thinking about it, my ideal VR game would probably be akin to a modern day remake of the legendary ZX Spectrum game How to be a Complete Bastard.
Based on Adrian Edmondson's 1986 book of the same name, in How to be a Complete Bastard players control Ade himself as he gatecrashes a party and endeavours to be as big a prick as possible. All without getting caught and thrown out onto the street. Or worse...
As you stagger around the house, rifling through drawers and cupboards you uncover a variety of ways to earn 'Bastard Points'. You can throw bleach around a room, stab people with pens, let off enormous stinky farts and even chow down on a delicious packet of condoms.
It's a bizarre game about pushing social boundaries to the absolute limits. About crossing the line in the most inappropriate ways possible and doing so with absolutely zero regard to the consequences. Oh, what I would give to play something like that in VR.
Maybe it would be a stealth game, set during a posh dinner party in a big murder mystery style mansion. One that's full to the brim with expensive breakables, interactive objects and a cast of confused characters that you have to troll. You could down as much expensive booze as you could find, steal all the forks and secrete them into people's pockets. Fill the washing machine with food and put all the shoes down the toilet, all while trying to avoid getting caught in the act. What I'm imagining here, I think, is Dishonored VR. But instead of being an assassin, you're just a complete bastard.
Obviously you can easily act like a jerk in standard video games too. There are plenty of opportunities to do so, but the added immersion of VR makes you feel engaged with the fiction in a way that's impossible for 2D experiences to replicate. A successful VR game wraps itself around you and tricks your brain into thinking that its digital props and NPCs have a tangible, physical presence - a real-world personal space if you will. Being able to cross into this space and break social rules in a convincing virtual environment is a thrill that just doesn't exist in traditional 'flat' games.
Using VR to become a super soldier, soar through the skies like a bird or give yourself superpowers is obviously a great use of the tech. I've had some epic out-of-this-world adventures in my time, but after a while being extraordinary can start to get a bit boring. That's why I get a perverse sense enjoyment from acting as abnormally as possible in otherwise very ordinary situations. Best of all though, because I'm doing it in VR I can avoid any real world repercussions.
Next time you play a strait-laced VR game, why not try to be a bit more creative with it? Hit a corpse with a crowbar in Kona VR, choreograph a dance number in Star Trek: Bridge Crew or maybe even throw a photo of Bruce Wayne's parents at Alfred in Batman: Arkham VR. If you're anything like me, you might find acting like a jerk without any consequences to be very cathartic indeed.