Life as a Bear in Virtual Reality
If and when virtual reality propels to the masses, animal simulator games may become some of the most popular ones such as Bug simulator, Bird simulator, and Bear simulator. The animal simulator games where you don’t have to think too much and too seriously, and where taking time out of being human is the main attraction. These will be slightly cartoonish and highly realistic beautifully rendered titles, it doesn’t matter. There might be structured elements in this gameplay like hunting for food and building a nest, but with the main emphasis on immersion and experience, these will be the mostly optional features. When you get home, tired of your hard and busy life as a human, then you may think, “It would be awesome if I could be a bear right now.”
This idea of animal simulator games is not just an idea. A few of these types of games already exist in virtual reality, ranging from the simple and silly one like Goat simulator, with its gameplay of racking up points and changing around maps like the Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater, to a little more realistic one like Bear simulator, which uses the RPG elements to give you an experience as a bear – for example, you can increase your stats and you can also go hunting. There are also some intellectual titles like the game, Flower and the upcoming game, Everything which is known as a “conscious simulator”, where the players can inhabit any object that they are able to see in the game world from cars and planets to animals and rocks and more. This is an idea that has the support of a philosophical school of thought behind the recently developed Object Oriented Ontology that among the other things suggests that we should use the perception of non-human objects to explore reality.
It seems that the above-mentioned games would mesh well with the sense of immersion of virtual reality due to their open-ended simulation. Now immersion comes in all sorts of sizes and shapes in video games, whether you’re deep into micromanagement in Civilization or doing a lot of killing in Call of Duty, but due to virtual reality, there is a specific opportunity for the gamers to be able to inhabit the character. A virtual reality headset actually replaces your natural vision, obscuring the real world with the sense of self in the game world. This sense can be used in the map to give you a very unique perspective of a map or a third person view of some kind of avatar, but many people think it’s coolest when you’re actually in the character’s head as in a way, you get to be that character.
Some of the very successful Kickstarter campaigns and the list of above-mentioned games suggests that there is obviously some portion of the market that is drawn to this sort of experience. Other individuals have gone further with these ideas, like the conceptual or theoretical designer Thomas Thwaites, who tried to “take a holiday from being human” by becoming a goat. Not sure why the goats are so popular for this kind of animal simulation game, but maybe it’s because they are trapped human spirits. Thwaites has noted that this is an “ancient human dream” to take on the characteristics of an animal, with roots in Greek and shamanism mythology. To become a goat, he created an artificial stomach to digest grass that he eats using a goat’s gut bacteria and he wore prosthetic limbs to walk on all four legs. Thwaites speaking to Motherboard explained that he wants to explore the ideas of trans-humanism and post-humanism, but he thinks that despite these groups’ emphasis on the augmentation, some of the people’s desires in life aren’t “necessarily to become super intelligent.” They may want to retreat instead. Thwaites says, “To me a nonhuman animal? So much calmer and simpler!”
This is the sentiment that you see sometimes by the furry community. Some people say that they get an incredible release by “being an animal temporarily”.
One person told Vanity Fair (in 2001), “It’s a new way of looking at the world. It’s like looking at it with baby eyes, or cub eyes.”
In this sentiment, the infantilism is probably not according to everyone’s tastes, but there is a wider appeal of the idea to get a new sense of the world by giving yourself a break from the human life. If life as a human is so attracting and feels too stressful, then why not try to be a bear?