I’m Terrified of Rec Room
The beautiful potential of virtual reality
The closest thing I can compare stepping into the VR headset and going into the open world of Rec Room is like being being catapulted into a foreign country — if that foreign country were run by children.
Your senses are immediately blasted by the bright colors of this other reality, where your hands are blocks and you have no legs. While a nice tutorial tries to prepare you with the mechanics of how to move and pick up basketballs, nothing can prepare you for the dark underbelly of childhood anarchy.
Vulgar words fill the rainbow bright rec center as I enter it, much like arriving in the middle of a movie. The screams of “Fuck you!” “Fuck you!” “Fuck you!” ricochet from all directions.
Someone is blasting music through a horrible speaker so everything is just horrible noise.
Figures are floating around while making a constant stepping noise with their non-existent feet.
Where am I? What am I doing? What am I supposed to do?
There are no rules here.
I tentatively walk about the space in my new body, amazed I can interact with things in such a natural way, such as picking up a card and turning it around in my hand — it’s like waking up in a world made of Lego.
“Hey! Hey! Hey!” a group of floating, smiling figures approach with children’s voices. One is jumping around in a trashcan. “Hey!” says the one, “Will you join my group? I’ll make you second in command.”
“I like my trashcan!” says the one in the trashcan.
It’s difficult to explain how real these people are while floating about in ridiculous shapes. Their voices are real, the movements are real — mimicking the movements that somewhere in the world they are making. I realize we are living out a bizarre version of Avatar and I feel vulnerable and exposed. In one sense I’m completely anonymous and in the other sense I’m the purest version of myself — I’m the spirit of myself.
“Will you join our group?” says the voice again.
I decide to take the approach of saying nothing, making my escape by quickly fleeing in a random direction. “Hey hey hey” the chorus calls after me as they step quickly behind. I climb a random flight of steps, starting to panic. “Don’t run away”, says the kid, his voice loud to my left. “We’re cooler than the Bloods!” he adds, “I’ll give you so much power.”
I need to get out
I turnover my wrist and the watch becomes a menu. How neat. I quickly scour the games and pick the first one that looks safe enough, a game of charades.
My view becomes orange blocks, and I am whisked away.
It’s been two weeks of playing Rec Room. It still scares me being around “real” people, I’m reminded each time how ruthless kids are, and the rooms filled with complete chaos way out number the calm ones. But it’s also an entire parallel universe of potential.
In one night I traveled with my boyfriend and his brother to a beautiful map made by Furries, a dance party, a monster hunting expedition, and a Spiderman roleplaying game in which you get to swing around skyscrapers. It was one of the best nights I’ve had in awhile, and where else would you be able to replicate that experience?
When you take off your VR headset, much like when you get back from a foreign country or a vacation, it seems like it was all a dream. There’s a sudden realization that all those experiences you just had were just all in your head as the familiar furniture of your living room meets you.
And yet — they weren’t. They were just as real.