Any day is a good one when you can fight Stormtroopers and wield a lightsaber. My friend discovered the Star Wars demo: Trials on Tatooine and asked me to download it from Steam so that he could play it. He doesn’t have VR yet so I downloaded the game for him. A little while later, the game displayed in my Library.
My friend is a huge Star Wars fan. He turned his young son into a Star Wars fan too. I had them over before to experience the HTC Vive. Ever since his son calls virtual reality, “going inside the computer”. He’s not technically wrong I suppose.
Seeing his son react to virtual reality really brings out the usability analyst in me. The game begins as most Star Wars movies do. Yellow text scrolls across space explaining what you are about to step into. The stars of the galaxy twinkle brightly in the headset.
As the text began to scroll, my friend’s son said, “if I step on the letters will I fall into space? Hold me, daddy!”
This thought didn’t cross my mind when I played the demo but I have felt like I was in a precarious spot in other games. Richie’s Plank Experiment made me double think jumping off the plank on top of a skyscraper. I played other games that made me feel like the floor was moving under my feet. This should be something to take into consideration when designing virtual reality experiences. Especially those that younger kids will want to play in.
My friend’s son was very excited to land on Tatooine, watch the Millennium Falcon land, and say “hello” to R2D2. At one point in the game, a hatch gets stuck coming down off the ship. You have to reach up and pull it the rest of the way down. My friend’s son was too short to reach button panel. His dad had to help him. You can see the same thing happen to the 5-year-old in the YouTube video below.
Where objects are placed is another thing that needs to be taken into consideration in VR games and experiences. Not everyone is a 6-foot-tall man. It’s pretty crazy that in virtual reality, you can physically stop someone from completing an experience, even if unintentionally. This happened to my friend’s son before. He couldn’t reach the elevator buttons in Richie’s Plank Experience.
When we, as adults, see blaster beams shooting at us we know they won’t actually hurt us. We try to dodge them and hit them out of the way without lightsaber but we know we won’t be physically harmed.
My friend’s son, however, thinks that virtual reality is real. He can’t yet separate that what’s happening in VR is not happening to him in real life. While he was very excited to go to Tatooine, it became too much for him once the Stormtroopers came on the scene. We had to take him out of the game. After they left, I looked on Steam for a game rating but didn’t see any.
Of course, each kid is different. Here’s a video of a 5-year-old playing Trials on Tatooine. He doesn’t seem to be phased at all by the lasers being shot his way.
People are already questioning if virtual reality is good for kids. So far, they have found no reason why it shouldn’t be. But since the technology is so new, it doesn’t hurt to be cautious, especially seeing the difference in reactions between a 4-year-old and an adult.
Even after his scary experience on Tatooine, my friend’s son still asks me if he can, “go inside the computer” whenever I see him.