Playstation VR Sales: Don't Use Your PSVR Headset Alone, You Might Get Murdered In It

psvr-midnight-release
Here's where you can get a PlayStation VR headset right at midnight Sony Interactive Entertainment

Beyond the finicky set-up and expense, one of the major hurdles to widespread virtual reality adoption is a simple experiential gap. If you haven’t tried a VR headset like the HTC Vive, PSVR or Oculus Rift it can be hard to appreciate the sensation. As a VR skeptic myself, it took actually getting strapped into a Vive to understand how expansive the possibilities feel. It’s a different category of experience entirely from traditional console or PC gaming, even if the hardware and software hasn’t quite stood up to that promise yet.

Is it any surprise then that so many VR demos turn on horror? PSVR launch titles like Here They Lie, Until Dawn and the shark dive in Playstation VR Worlds grab players with immediate and visceral experiences. There’s nothing like a jump scare to reveal just how physiological virtual reality can feel and how much closer having your senses so engaged can bring you toward the sensations of real life.

But there’s another side to that terrifying coin, an unintended consequence of cloistering yourself in a virtual world: there’s no telling whether or not someone in the real world is about to bury a pickaxe in your skull.

Playing Rez Infinite at a friend’s apartment was my first experience with VR outside of the iDigi offices, where the bright fluorescent lights, cubicles and coworkers tamp down the animal terror of blinding and deafening yourself to the real world and its predators. Rez Infinite is everything I hoped it would be, replicating the exact World Wide Web CyberCity experience 80s and 90s fiction like Hackers, The Lawnmower Man and Neuromancer promised us. This was the digital domain of the imagination, when all we had was visual metaphors instead of Twitter Pepes and Tumblr wars. But, even though Rez Infinite is about as far from a horror game as it’s possible to get, my hackles were up. Even knowing I was surrounded by friends, there’s something primordial and unpleasant in the awareness that I had willingly made myself as helpless as a baby bird.

There’s no way in hell I’d ever put on a VR headset while alone in my apartment.

A quick census confirmed I wasn’t alone in this feeling. Both of the new PSVR adopters I was with agreed: they would never play it while home alone.

In 2013, there were 3.9 murders per 100,000 people in the United States. While Sony hasn’t let slip any official numbers, independent groups have estimated that the PSVR could have an install base of over 2 million by the end of this year. That’s worldwide. If we assume that PSVR will sell proportionally from country to country, that would mean approximately 700,000 units in the United States. That means 27.3 PSVR owners will become murder victims in the next year.

Sure, maybe they won’t get murdered while they’re in VR…

And I’d guess people with the economic security to buy a PSVR headset probably get murdered less…

Look, I know these are junk statistics. But I can guarantee you this much: someone will get murdered while wearing a VR headset, sooner rather than later. The dead dude found in a VR headset is an NCIS inevitability. Anyway, fear doesn’t care about statistics. My subjective, experiential data is clear: when I’m in a VR headset there’s a part of my brain running down all the different sharp and/or blunt objects that could be easily inserted into my flesh by any number of imagined serial killers, under-the-bed monsters, horror movie slashers and/or alien greys.

It may not make much sense — hell, you’re probably in more danger with other people in the room — but the fear is palpable and (I suspect) damn near universal. Perhaps this will remain an undercurrent, a tingling sense left mainly undiscussed. Or perhaps we’ll adopt new social norms if VR gaming takes off. Like, maybe I’ll keep a revolver clutched in one hand, duct taped to my Playstation Move Motion Controller. Or maybe this will all prove a blip, as technology advances eclipse VR with more transparent AR headsets.

Still, I know this much: you murdering bastards will never catch me playing PSVR alone in my apartment in the middle of the night.

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