I've been eagerly anticipating a mass market virtual reality experience since my brief but exhilarating introduction to the technology outside an arcade in the MGM Grand Las Vegas Hotel & Casino nearly 20 years ago. I think I paid $5 back then for one session that ended up lasting maybe two minutes. But it left an indelible mark.

Fast forward two decades and the lure of E3 demos plus generally good reviews convinced me it was time to dive in. And the new experience did not disappoint. Much. The quality varies dramatically from truly awe-inspiring interactivity to disorienting perspectives that can leave one floored, and not in a good way.

I will chronicle my time with the PlayStation VR, considered less powerful then its more expensive brethren, but a solid achievement nonetheless and possibly the best bang for your buck (one also needs the PlayStation Eye camera and, for some games, PlayStation Move motion controllers, both sold separately).

It's worth noting that I wear glasses, and my play area is about as small as the PSVR will accommodate. Neither of these significantly impacted the virtual reality experience, as I could clearly distinguish high-quality presentation from poor, and only on rare occasions did my controllers leave the camera's field of view.

As reported, the headset is well designed to adjust easily, distribute its light weight evenly and fit comfortably around eyewear. Except for somewhat heavy cables that at times can interfere and tug on too-short connected earphones, or a rubber visor enclosure that can allow slivers of light in, for the most part the PSVR is relatively imperceptible during use.

Before going any further, a brief disclaimer: This blog/phlog post is LONG, even by my long-winded standards. I intended to post only general impressions of a few demos and games, but it evolved into a more detailed exploration of the PSVR experience. Feel free to skim, skip over games, or run away in abject horror. Whatever you choose, thanks for checking in!

Batman: Arkham VR

The PlayStation VR Demo Disc was my first foray into modern virtual reality gaming, as it has a variety of titles to sample in a range of gaming genres. As I've always enjoyed racing games and was especially interested in simulating the perspective if not the actual skill (I prefer arcade racers over sims), I gave DriveClub VR a spin.

More precisely, DriveClub VR took me for a spin. It's worth noting that I rarely experience nausea playing video games (notable exceptions were Colony Wars and G-Police on the original PlayStation) and in fact prefer a more realistic driving viewpoint such as the cabin view in the Need for Speed: Shift series.

The two Shift games are the only ones I felt comfortable racing in the cabin view. The design did not interfere with driving, which is more than can be said for most racing games. Plus the blurred vision and audible grunt of your avatar upon colliding with a wall or car added an extra layer of realism that I enjoyed.

Still, my expectations were in check having read gamer feedback. And in fact I agree with criticisms that the presentation takes a hit (except for the cabin detail), and can resemble a PS2 era game. Of course, scaling back the aesthetics are a reasonable sacrifice to ensure a solid, smooth performance, so does DriveClub VR deliver in this department?

The controls do feel responsive, with cars feeling neither floaty nor glued to the road. However, about two minutes in to the race I felt a wave of nausea overcome me as I took another turn. I had to stop, remove the headset and take a breath. A few minutes later I tried again and immediately had to stop for good. This was new, uncomfortable territory for me.

I do get motion sickness whether in a car, especially as a child, or in a boat. But rarely when playing video games. Apparently, it has more to do with the nature of virtual reality than video games, as this common reaction arises from the confusion our bodies experience when trying to reconcile visual motion with the sensation of being stationary.

The mystery is why some VR titles elicit this reaction and others do not. For instance, I tried two VR flying games at E3 this past year and one (War Thunder VR) made me at least momentarily queasy and the other (Elite Dangerous: Horizons) did not. In fact, it was partially on the strength of the latter PC space combat game that I was excited to try Eve: Valkyrie.

Eve: Valkyrie

The demo for Eve: Valkyrie is a limited exploration of the title's basic gameplay. A short segment from the beginning of the game, players pilot a spacecraft alongside AI comrades as your squadron is ambushed. Initial impressions include the quality presentation and somewhat counterintuitive controls for Ace Combat fans like myself.

Thrust and brake are mapped to the X and O buttons, respectively, if I recall, while primary and secondary fire are mapped to the right and left triggers (for AC, thrust/decelerate are right/left triggers, and primary/secondary fire are X/O buttons). This control scheme left me firing when I meant to fly, and flying when I intended to shoot.

Initial confusion aside, controls work fine when familiar with them. They are responsive, flight is fluid, and targeting and hit detection appear spot on. In the midst of a firefight, keeping tabs on your quarry can be a challenge amid the carnage and crowded skies, but it's not a problem. The minimap is generally helpful, though three-dimensional data (as in Elite Dangerous) seemed lacking.

The demo is too short to provide an overall impression (more on the game below), however, the brief experience is undoubtedly fun while it lasts. The firefight was kinetic and thrilling, and I wasn't saddled with bouts of nausea as a result. Plus the presentation, from detailed visuals to impressive particle effects, fluid animation to wall to wall sound, provides a solid foundation for the action.

Until Dawn: Rush of Blood likewise provides a sensory overload of intense sights and sounds, though in service to an appropriately creepy and deranged setting for this horror on-rails shooter. And while the setting and action are undeniably effective and worth visiting, the gameplay proved too disorienting for me to graduate to a purchase.

What is striking about Rush of Blood from the get-go is the atmosphere. As the second title in the fledgling Until Dawn horror franchise, the demo places you in a cart sent along rails through an amusement park fun house with decidedly lurid horrors. Shrink at huge hogs screaming beneath blades in a slaughterhouse, and try to hold off waves of homicidal clowns.

As with many VR titles (in my admittedly limited experience), the controller(s) has to be recalibrated regularly during gameplay so aiming is precise. Once you're used to doing that by default, and regularly reloading firearms, picking off assailants or other targets is fairly routine and satisfying. This demo really nails the feel of a surreal fun house and of a quality on-rails shooter.

What it also does for me, regrettably, is make me dizzy on occasion. When just moving forward the experience is fine, but when simulating the ups and downs of roller coaster thrills, I had to close my eyes. Thankfully I got to see what I was missing when my nephew played through! For gamers with stronger stomachs, it should be a memorable journey.

Robinson: The Journey

The demo for Here They Lie likewise visits a deranged setting, but ditches amusement park scares in favor of a more creepy nightmare vision worthy of David Lynch. Adopting the format of an on-foot exploratory game, the player walks through a neglected urban landscape to occasionally encounter random denizens or scattered information.

The art design is well conceived and bizarre visions entertain, while interaction is possible but limited to opening doors or picking up papers. However, movement can feel stilted at times. Progress is slow, and turning involves intermittent pivoting in place. The low-detail, sometimes blurry environments made motion feel worse, making me a little light headed.

In contrast, the Resident Evil 7 biohazard -- Kitchen Teaser demo was stunningly detailed and breathtakingly disturbing. Realistic textures and animations, and a familiar but evocative setting, help anchor the gamer in the horrific scenario that plays out while cleverly immobilized by restraints that limit interaction to looking around and raising bound hands.

The scene that unfolds is a great example of the subtle but effective enhancement that VR can add. Despite the lack of player motion, the movement of other characters creates action and raises suspense. The desperate scramble of a fellow prisoner and inexorable approach of our vicious captor, accompanied by noises all around, generate palpable fear and panic.

Wayward Sky

Wayward Sky is a very different demo. The art design is creative, highly stylized and colorful, reflecting the fantasy theme of a floating facility in the sky that your character, Bess, must explore in order to rescue her captive father. Platforming and light puzzle solving are the basis for gameplay that takes place in a third-person, quasi-isometric perspective and in first person, respectively.

The demo reflects the beginning of the game, introducing players to the simple narrative structure (I hesitate to call it a storyline), the point and click third-person navigation and the interactive puzzle segments. Using motion controllers to direct Bess to move or interact with objects, and to independently operate levers, wheels or switches, is intuitive and engaging.

The appealing presentation, including a vibrant color palette, engaging score, endearing bots and generally warm characters, provides an inviting virtual reality world. The fixed camera perspective goes a long way to making the experience worth the risk. All told, the demo was enticing enough that I bought -- and finished -- the full game (more on that below).

I had a similar reaction to the "demo" for Allumette, which introduces viewers to the animated short film. I downloaded the 20-minute movie on the basis of the alluring introductory segment, and was not disappointed by the poignant story and immersive presentation. I was even surprised by the extent to which viewers could interact with the narrative.

The film tells the story of a girl and her mother in a city among the clouds. The animation is reminiscent of stop-motion claymation (think children's Christmas TV movies or Tim Burton) and features inspired art direction accompanied by a beautiful score. The simple characters' faces and gestures are surprisingly emotive, which is important considering the lack of dialog.

Where VR offers a welcome assist is with perspective. Viewers can watch the story unfold close up, looking characters in the face and even peering inside interiors such as that of an airship. At important moments, cutaways afford interior views, but the option to do so outside those moments -- and without typical onscreen warnings of interference -- are appreciated.

The setting also offers the opportunity to view activities above and below the principal action, since some neighborhoods exist at different elevations. The cumulative effect adds an interesting layer of depth, though the real reward is the simple but appealing story and the beautiful overall portrayal of it.

Batman: Arkham VR

Among the other games on the PlayStation VR Demo Disc is Battlezone. The single-player training mode for this multiplayer shooter is effective at establishing the colorful setup and showing off its fast-paced action. Players control a tank in a Tron-inspired world, where enemy tanks, towers, drones and aircraft represent the opposition.

After choosing an insertion point, gamers navigate the corridors of an open-air city on their way to the enemy. A radar helps track enemy location and movement, while city structures can provide cover. With an emphasis on mobility, it's nice to know that driving is intuitive and responsive, whether moving forward, backward or side to side.

Despite the near-constant movement, I was not overcome with motion sickness. I might have felt a little queasy once or twice, but it wasn't a problem. This comfort level allowed me to focus also on shooting, which likewise is fluid and responsive. Targeting and hit detection feel finely tuned, and different weapons control well and are easily interchangeable.

That said, I didn't notice the VR component while playing. Most likely that's because it wasn't a major factor during my brief experience, especially as I primarily engaged the enemy at range though did flank them a couple times. It also could be due to implementation so seamless that it went unnoticed even when unconsciously utilizing it.

One demo where VR played a very prominent role was Job Simulator. I was uninspired by the generic title, but am glad I heeded positive feedback and tried it. The highly interactive and comical scenario mostly took place in a workstation cubicle, but offered enough silly fun that I was thoroughly entertained while playing the "simulation."

Using the Move motion controllers, players can perform mundane office tasks and even pickup and eat goodies off the snack tray. What I remember best, however, is being able to retrieve an obviously rancid doughnut from the trash can, eat it, and projectile vomit everywhere I turned. That level of interactivity was, dare I say, a most pleasant surprise!

I spent the rest of the time picking up anything that wasn't nailed down to my desk and hurling balls, paper airplanes, staplers, coffee mugs, etc. at coworkers (floating monitors with line drawn faces), whose annoyed reactions only encouraged more mischief. Indeed, the cartoon style, office satire (reminding me of the film Office Space) and juvenile behavior was a fun change of pace.

Rez Infinite is a VR update of the classic shooter Rez. I had never tried the original title, but like others I found the gameplay entertaining. The demo played out like an on-rails corridor shooter whose simplistic art design is livened by a pulsating techno beat. I won't bore with details that many already know, but the mechanics do feel precise and reward quick reflexes.

The virtual reality component no doubt adds an extra layer of depth. Being able to visually track targets by turning or raising one's head as they near and start to pass you by affords more opportunities to eliminate them and helps immerse players in the brisk action. The only downside for me are regular abrupt turns that mess with my equilibrium.

The Playroom VR -- Robots Rescue

Like the PlayStation VR Demo Disc, The Playroom VR offers a variety of gameplay choices to sample from its suite of gaming modes. With each scenario centered around undeniably cute robots, the entertaining solo and co-op challenges provide a decent demonstration of basic VR capabilities currently on the console.

Robots Rescue is a platforming mini-game that tasks players with rescuing bots from a verdant setting high in the sky. I explored this world solo, though a non-VR player can help reach otherwise inaccessible areas. VR not only adds perspective, but helps with inspecting areas high above or below the player for bots or other objects of interest.

What also sets this apart is a grappling hook that allows your bot to walk the length of its taut rope or you to pull down weak surfaces to reveal new paths. Holding your controller out allows bots to leap to their freedom. Otherwise, platforming and combat are fairly standard though controls for both are well implemented.

WANTED! is a co-op shooter game where one partner watching the TV describes suspects on successive Wanted posters while the other uses VR to find and shoot each suspect on sight. This shoot-first-ask-questions-later approach can be a fun and fast social game where participants compete for the high score.

Players can collect coins in each mini-game, then spend them in the VR Bots lobby to try and collect different bots and related items from a virtual vending machine. Once owned, each item will populate the lobby and can be viewed in action. Whether in this lobby or in each mini-game, the adorable VR bots raise the appeal of this entertaining collection.

SuperHyperCube is a standalone demo that I had to try given the glowing reviews, and was pleased to find out that it is an entertaining puzzle game. A kind of 3D Tetris game where players turn a growing block to fit the corresponding shapes in successive walls, it is challenging and fun if a bit repetitive. But it makes good use of its VR platform.

Robinson: The Journey

After exhausting VR demos and related freebies that interested me, I explored full-game purchases for the PSVR. With no demo but generally positive reviews and a premise I found intriguing -- explore an alien world populated by dinosaurs as a kind of marooned Robinson Crusoe -- I dived into Robinson: The Journey.

Initial impressions supported reports of a quality presentation that helps bring the prehistoric alien planet to life. Lush jungles are teeming with insects, animals and plants that are well animated and colorful. But default controls favor pivot turns (as in the demo for Here They Lie), which undermine the level of immersion that the game otherwise establishes.

I selected a smooth turning radius instead but quickly found why such movement is not the default choice. Using controls to turn smoothly in virtual reality is akin to watching the room spin when drunk and motionless. It can be a disorienting, nauseating experience that pivot turns (in 30- or 45-degree increments) seem to eliminate for the most part.

Opting for the default pivot turns is a simple concession that might sacrifice some immersion but at least allows one to experience VR in relative comfort. And that's a good thing for Robinson, as the well-conceived world encourages exploration with beautiful terrain, multiple paths and elevations, and varied lifeforms for cataloging.

A couple gameplay elements, however, create slight impediments. Climbing is an imprecise exercise in looking directly at an object and pressing a gamepad button to grab on (Move controls are not yet implemented). The nearest hand will automatically extend but reaching and grabbing the exact object is sometimes trial and error.

Likewise, navigation at times can depend on moving obstacles with a kind of gravity tool that doesn't always work as intended, whether due to collision detection, manipulation or even awaiting scripted moments. The same is true of precisely placing objects as part of an objective. Thankfully, the tool is more often helpful than not.

The process for scanning lifeforms is a casual and diverting minigame that involves aiming a reticule near green orbs on lifeforms to retrieve them without also retrieving nearby red orbs. The payoff is then reviewing them in a catalog, though they aren't to scale (so the T-Rex is less intimidating then it should be, especially compared to the one in Batman: Arkham VR -- yes, there is one there, too).

Puzzles can involve anything from moving objects around to clear obstructions or repair machinery, to using your floating AI companion to reroute power along multiple conduits from an isometric view. Your baby T-Rex companion (why not?) can also be given simple commands for an assist from time to time.

All told, exploration and simple puzzle solving thus far have provided a solid foundation, and the narrative and related mystery of what happened to your ship and comrades provides a decent context. So far it's not particularly innovative, but is an entertaining introduction to a solid, if imperfect, VR experience.

Batman: Arkham VR

Batman: Arkham VR is the one virtual reality game I've played that not only is an excellent showcase for virtual reality but likewise offers a rewarding gaming experience in its own right. The level of interactivity, detail and gameplay options are impressive, especially for a game that honestly doesn't do much but succeeds brilliantly in immersing players in its alternate world.

The narrative itself is solid, unfolding a mystery involving many of Batman's allies and enemies. It's a suitably dark tale revealed across several settings, with solid dialog and voice acting, exceptional animation and lifelike textures. The biggest shortcoming is that the game is over too soon, though the price reflects its brief duration.

But the content still is impeccable. The Batcave itself allows players to pickup, inspect and move objects; operate equipment like machinery and computers; and manipulate holograms. That it all happens with intuitive use of Move motion controllers and in the context of Batman's investigation is a tribute to the stellar game design.

Standing affords the best level of interaction. In one noteworthy sequence, players using both hands (controllers) can pickup a vial, place it in a centrifuge, turn it on/off, remove the vial, open a canister, place it inside, press a button and analyze the contents. There are many other opportunities, and all are fluid actions that mimic real world activity in impressive ways.

My favorite pastime in the Batcave is reviewing personnel files. Besides bios and other info, lifelike holograms of each character stand before you, with animated movements. You can rotate them, change their stance (an attack stance eerily has their eyes follow you) and lean forward to within an inch of their face. Here the detail, down to the pores on their skin, astounds.

There are occasional hiccups in gameplay, but they are more related to the limitations of the medium, and my office/man-cave setting, then to actual hardware/software failures. Incomplete actions due to a loss of line-of-sight camera tracking, or momentary interruptions when my head or hands intrude on in-game object, can disrupt gameplay but only infrequently.

Of course the meat of the game is the investigation, which allows the various tools on your utility belt to shine. Batarangs can hit inaccessible buttons, the grappling hook assists with your movement and retrieval of objects, and a scanner facilitates the inspection of crime scenes and cadavers. All are simple to operate and fun to use.

The standout device is the scanner, which enables a kind of x-ray view of corpses as well as holographic crime scene recreations. The latter can unfold quickly, in real time or slowed down, with action that takes place nearly all around you. It's an impressive display of VR with a level of interactivity that is inventive and intense.

In every scene, gamers search for clues, with an element of puzzle solving. There are also hidden objects or Riddler-related puzzles that can unlock character files in the Batcave. Interestingly, there is a lot of content, but no traditional action in the form of travel or combat. The former is accompanied with sound effects and a blank screen, the latter -- to the extent it happens -- is indirect.

That might leave fans of Rocksteady's Batman games disappointed, but Arkham VR is solid entertainment with a fresh perspective. And frankly, the absence of travel or combat work in its favor, as VR can be disorienting when movement is involved. Removing that from the equation, and perfecting what remains, has created a standout VR experience that I can only hope is replicated.

Eve: Valkyrie

The game I was most looking forward to, especially after having experienced Elite Dangerous: Horizons in VR, was Eve: Valkyrie. The demo was promising, and the full game delivers on that promise. Now, it's hard to compete with the aforementioned PC game and top of the line Thrustmaster flight controls, but Eve: Valkyrie plays similarly on PSVR and delivers an impressive presentation and content.

I should note that I have not attempted any online multiplayer modes, which represent the core gameplay of this space combat title. The reason is that I don't believe I'm well enough prepared. Despite being a longtime Ace Combat fan, I'm used to competing against AI in single player missions. Even then, Eve: Valkyrie's combat is somewhat less forgiving.

Thankfully, there is more offline content than I anticipated, including a beefy Training mode for familiarizing oneself with gameplay and controls, a Scout mode for finding "echoes" and salvage in different environments, a Recall mode for playing out reclaimed memories of past pilots, and a Survival mode for combating waves of enemy ships.

Each mode has several variations, whether learning different flight or combat maneuvers, exploring reproductions of various active environments, or experiencing one of several memories or scripted battle sequences. Survival itself can play out across a variety of settings. All this means a lot of options for novice pilots to sample offline while honing their skills.

Also beneficial is the opportunity to customize controls. I was able to update my controller configuration so that it better resembled the Ace Combat control scheme, allowing me to jump right in to the action instead of having to learn the default button mapping. This was extra important considering that space combat proved more exacting, I think, than Ace Combat dogfights.

As mentioned earlier, it helps that controls are responsive, allowing for flight in and out of natural or artificial objects (of which there can be many) and intense dogfights with multiple foes. All actions are fluid and intuitive, whether flying in any direction, switching between thrust and decelerate, locking on to enemy craft, firing at targets or completing objectives.

Where VR adds to the action is allowing the opportunity to visually track one's targets or objectives by following the former's trajectory as they pass or searching surroundings for telltale cues of the latter. Either way, tracking likewise is responsive and fluid, immersing players in the sometimes chaotic proceedings. It's a major draw for this kind of gaming experience.

But it's not without a caveat. As I'm finding in other VR titles, the more fixed objects in any given setting and the larger they are, the more the illusion of movement can disorient. Flying amid large spacecraft or asteroids can mess with one's equilibrium as sure as navigating an environment on foot. The saving grace is that focusing on a particular point -- or spacecraft -- can help mitigate the sensation.

It's unclear the extent to which such settings will promote nausea, especially when competing online in frenetic combat modes. Offline it can make me somewhat queasy on occasion, though less so than in other genres. But all in all, Eve: Valkyrie makes use of an excellent presentation, responsive controls and fluid VR to immerse gamers in its impressive world.

Wayward Sky

The last VR title I've tried, and only the second I've finished (after Batman: Arkham VR), is Wayward Sky. I enjoyed everything about this game and, while it lacks the detail, polish and panache of the Batman experience, it more than makes up for it in charm, creativity and the simple pleasure of playing it.

In many ways, the appeal of the game is in its simplicity. While some have faulted a lack of challenge in the gameplay, for instance, the inviting platforming and puzzle design nonetheless engage the player and entertain. Likewise, the highly stylized artwork, with its smooth surfaces and colorful textures, creates an appealing fantasy world.

The one fault is in a very simple story of rescue. Still, it proves multilayered (with a second parent/child relationship involving the floating facility) and, while lacking depth, provides enough context and motivation for the journey to unfold convincingly. The focus then rests where it should, that is, on the platforming and puzzle components that represent the game's core gameplay elements.

Both are well-designed and -implemented. In an interesting and ultimately inspired design choice, gamers play as Bess in both third-person isometric and first-person perspectives. The former occurs not only to promote character movement in VR, but to solve navigation quandaries like pacing bots, rotating pathways, and multiple ziplines.

The latter first-person view is the perspective used when Bess is positioned at an interactive station, which can require operating machinery in the form of pressing buttons, pulling levers or rotating valves. In this context, the Move motion controllers are responsive and helpful substitutes for your hands (as in Batman: Arkham VR).

Other actions that can be performed involve manipulating equipment, such as conduit or pipes, to restore proper flow in the system and thereby generate power, open doors, etc. Also it's worth noting that the only combat that takes place outside cutscenes occurs when operating a high powered hose at such stations to bring down enemy bots.

This first-person perspective likewise is used when at the game's hub. There, gamers can play with blocks (yup), a toy bot and airplane, a radio and balls. It's limited, but can be a fun diversion, as the airplane will fly far when thrown, and huge chickens will play fetch when balls are thrown onto their platforms.

Besides using the Move controllers to manipulate equipment or as laser pointers to direct Bess where to go, they can remotely operate nearby bots by directing them out of the way or to interactive stations to perform an important function. The VR visor itself not only provides perspective, but can be used to see hidden objects that can help build bots in the hub.

It's interesting to note that the perspective gained with the VR visor really shows off virtual reality in an impressive way. The setting of a facility floating high in the sky, itself with platforms at multiple elevations, will play with your acrophobia. Knowing my feet were firmly planted, and I was viewing a fantasy world, I still freaked out when looking over a ledge.

There are other interactive stations throughout the game that I still haven't figured out how to operate, but perhaps in a subsequent playthrough. For now, I have fond memories of my initial journey through Wayward Sky, which provides a solid, fun VR experience without any discomfort that can result from using virtual reality.

Batman: Arkham VR

And that brings me to my final thoughts on PSVR, and virtual reality gaming in general. All these experiences have taught me something about myself, if not about the experience with the technology in general. As mentioned before, the illusion of movement, i.e. smoothly and quickly passing objects that are fixed in the VR environment, can play tricks on stationary gamers.

That's why at least some games employ the more forgiving pivot rotation as a default setting, where sideways movements occur in increments instead of one fluid turn. This happily reduces the illusion of movement and lessons related discomfort. I now know I can't play games where motion is fluid and against a continuous static background (as opposed to, say, a space combat game).

But I can play games like Batman: Arkham VR and Wayward Sky where movement is reduced, outright omitted, or relegated to a third-person perspective. Yes that limits the level of immersion possible in this medium, but a quality production can still allow players to disappear into the fantasy VR world.

As far as PSVR, or retail devices in general, I agree with others who feel that many current games are mostly glorified tech demos. The cost therefore is hard to justify for the casual adopter. However, the purchase is a no-brainer for gamers like myself who have been waiting their entire lives for the technology to become mass produced and accessible for ordinary customers.

Thankfully there are high-quality games that, despite their brevity or relative lack of gameplay features, are powerful examples of where this nascent medium is headed. Based on that, I honestly feel the technology is here to stay, and that there is a solid foundation upon which to build bigger, better and deeper VR experiences going forward. Hopefully sooner than later!