I chose to spend my cultural half day stepping into a VR world under a railway arch in Haggerston. Quite the change to my day-to-day as a Senior Designer at FCB Inferno - and definitely a change for Hayley who I went with, who works as an Account Manager for BMW.

Walking through the front door we were greeted by a few dystopian looking folks all dressed in white. They took us to a table and explained what Otherworld was and how to navigate our way through the VR experience. Our guide explained that Otherworld is an island, split into three sections (named after the seasons) full of sixteen different games. There were a handful of multiplayer games so we made a mental note of where to find them before entering our separate pods. We were also given a quick run-through of how to use the state-of-the-art VIVE VR headsets and controllers that we’d be wearing and using. Oh, and we were told that no matter how much we might want to - absolutely do not actually run. The pods are padded for a reason.

From there we were each taken to our individual pods, or ‘immersion rooms’ as they called them. Assured that we would meet each other on the island. I had two controllers safety hooked on to my wrists, and a VR headset plopped on my head and over my eyes. My guide said goodbye and reminded me once again not to actually walk or run anywhere, but instead move my hands as if I were running to get around.

Okay, so, put yourself in my shoes. You’re in a padded pod, two controllers in your hands, and a (pretty heavy) VR set on your noggin with big old headphones. All of a sudden the VR world comes to life and you’re in an echoey cave. “Oh hi!” - Hayley’s just arrived. We’re both white human-like figures, trying to remember how we’re supposed to move around in this new world.  There’s an opening to the cave that we can see, we start running with our arms towards it. All of a sudden we’re outside on top of a mountain, it’s such a bright contrast that you want to shield your eyes from the ‘sun’. You also feel the wind as soon as you step out of the cave from the fans in the pod, pretty trippy. We run down the side of the mountain, wind picking up, you felt a very strange sensation of weightlessness as though you were actually falling. Hayley thought the floor of the pod moved but I’m sure that was our brains tricking us.

Now for the games. We played three multiplayer games in total. First up - tennis to ease us in. Great for helping us work out how to use the controllers & get used to being in a VR environment. Second - a robot killing game. This was a slight step up from tennis, involving lots of moving (more challenging than it sounds), aiming, shooting, and hilarious assigned characters. And finally - a zombie shooting game. We found ourselves dropped under a canopy with zombies running, crawling and hobbling towards us.

Then all of a sudden it was over. The fastest 40 minutes. I felt a tap on the shoulder (which, if I’m totally honest - I thought was a VR zombie) and then suddenly was in a white room. I heard one of the guides telling me that my experience had timed out and started helping me take off all the kit. I stepped out of my pod and back into their pristine white railway arch and met real-world Hayley. As both of our first times properly experiencing VR, we agreed that it really was very impressive… when it worked. Unfortunately, Hayley had a few glitches and was stuck in a white room for a while. But that’s what you get with emerging tech - it’s never going to be a completely smooth ride!

So - cultural trip, tick. First VR experience, tick. Nearly hitting an innocent real-world woman who I thought was a VR zombie, tick. 10/10, would highly recommend.