I got introduced to virtual reality development in 2016 properly. That time I was organizing a Game Jam event in Helsinki, in the HAM Art museum in downtown Helsinki where we had been able to get a small space to use. Since 2012 I have been participating and organizing game jams and this time some of the people who took part in my jam site were my future colleagues in a virtual reality start up company.
Game Jams are events that gather a large crowd of people together for usually a weeked long game development sessions in small groups. Game Jam culture is part of the hackathon culture where people search quickly ways to solve problems and create something that resonates strongly with them. It was on that moment that I truly realized the potential of virtual reality.
Virtual reality in 2016 was just on its way to the general publics knowledge. Usability and tools were on the level where a common IT developer could easily pick up the headset and find tools to help her in development. I had been working until that in a small games company as a design lead and noticed that VR and AR could work in my advantage in world building.
I had been doing level design and character design before for games, but virtual reality brought in an interesting new aspect that I could only refer to as “presence”. As I stood in my first ever created digital 3D space in VR I felt like I had entered some kind of a new visual level of my own thoughts.
The coming years would teach me so many completely new things, but also make it possible to start putting together my own expertise better regarding storytelling and immersion. Virtual reality as it was in 2016 was still lots of cables, limited pixels and heavy headgear. In that sense in four years we haven’t moved too far yet in the primary user experience level (head gear is still heavy after hours of using it), but instead have moved a lot forward in other aspects.
My own interest in virtual reality development is the experience of immersion. How to loose yourself in virtual reality in a level where normal behavior patterns kick in and mix in with a feeling of natural virtual experience. To me virtual reality is a gimmick I like to critisize and a tool that I love to praise. In the core of what I consider meaningful develompment and experiements in VR visualisation is the experience of the unseen, such as time, emotion and memory.