Welcome distractions in serious times 

click to enlarge PHOTO SUBMITTED - DO NOT DISTURB The future is here (next year sometime): Pique reporter Braden Dupuis takes the PlayStation VR for a spin at an EB Games convention last week.
  • Photo submitted
  • DO NOT DISTURB The future is here (next year sometime): Pique reporter Braden Dupuis takes the PlayStation VR for a spin at an EB Games convention last week.

I'm riding shotgun on the freeway in an SUV with an angry looking bald man. This being London, I sit on the left.

My new friend — not sure what his name is — slides me a gun across the dash of our ride.

As I pick it up, it occurs to me that I've never actually fired a gun before. When I pull the trigger on this one, I realize it isn't loaded.

Suddenly an invisible hand lifts the headphones from my ear, and a voice tells me to look to my right — between my bald accomplice and I sits a bottomless duffel bag full of ammunition.

I slide a clip into my gun just in time to confront the gangsters (or whatever) that have surrounded us.

I proceed to kill them all while giggling like a schoolboy and shaking with excitement.

I am not a schoolboy — I'm actually a 27-year-old man — and I'm definitely not a real-life murderer.

The game is called The London Heist, and I'm playing it on the yet-to-be-released PlayStation VR.

The finished product won't hit store shelves until sometime next year. It was on display in Whistler this week at a convention for video game retailer EB Games' management staff.

Myself, along with Question reporter Vince Shuley (check out his temporarily tech-focused column on stands this week) were fortunate enough to attend.

I've played video games for pretty much as long as they've existed — from the 8-bit NES days to the '96 wow factor of the N64 and everything else since — but VR gaming is a whole new animal.

I don't want to try to predict how it will fare at retail. Sometimes consumers can be wary of adopting new technology right off the bat — just look at how fast the hype around 3D TVs has died down — but with major names like Facebook and Microsoft also prepping big VR launches, the movement could be more than a fad.

And VR gaming takes immersion to previously inconceivable depths.

Once you strap yourself in (in this case I was helped by an attendant — I'm not really sure how I would have rigged up were I alone at home in my living room) the real world just sort of, disappears.

Some aspects of the graphics appeared fuzzy at first, but once my eyes adjusted I hardly noticed it. Holding the two PS Move controllers, I found I could interact with almost everything around me — by opening the passenger door, tuning the radio, adjusting the volume or even picking up empty pop cans.

At one point I turned my gun on my driver — he didn't die, but leaned back in his seat and cursed at me. I then turned the gun on my own face. My headphones filled with an echoing, ringing sound as my vision turned a bright orange.

As previously mentioned, the whole experience amused me to no end, and my brief trip to London just left me wanting more.

But of course, once the headset was removed I found myself back in Canada, and in the thick of an increasingly nasty election, no less.

Since Aug. 2 — and actually probably even further back than that — my life has been consumed by Canada's 42nd General Election.

I've been reading about it, writing about it, talking about it, thinking about it and occasionally even dreaming about it.

No, literally — after last week's all-candidates meeting in Whistler I spent what felt like six straight hours dreaming in campaign quotables, empty announcements and angry partisan tweets. I'm passionate about politics, but after nine weeks of #elxn42 I think many of us have pretty much had our fill.

Were it not for some divine electronic intervention, this column would probably have been about something poli-topical, like the niqab — Stephen Harper's own sad little distraction.

But then I got distracted myself, and I'm glad I did.

Sometimes it's healthy to pause, take a deep breath and tune it all out.


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