I’m having a real problem with reality lately. And it’s not from taking too many drugs. I think it’s from not taking enough drugs. The problem is that we have too many realities to choose from. We have reality TV, which everyone knows is not real at all.
We have our real reality, which seems to be a really bad reality TV show and is very surreal.
And very now we have Virtual Reality, which is oddly, very real.
I recently made the leap and got a VR (Virtual Reality) system. In this case the Sony PlayStation’s VR platform. There are currently two others out there, the Occulus Rift and the HTV Vive. Which one is better? It depends. Mostly on which one you own. The Vive is the most expensive, the PlayStation the least. I’ve seen all three. Frankly, they look pretty much the same. By that, I mean AWESOME!!
Unfortunately, I can’t describe the experience. You have to experience it. Imagine being inside an HD movie. Everything is to scale. You can walk up to people, walk around them. They are human-sized. Not TV-sized or big screen movie-sized. It’s amazing. The only downside is that the games and movies available right now are sort of skimpy. There’s a Batman game in which you literally become Batman.
It’s incredible, but the whole game only lasts about an hour. This is because of the enormous amount of data the system requires. That will change. Soon. Most of the games involve looking around at things and marveling at how real they are.
“I’m gonna need a bigger cage!”
That all changed when a new game came out called Star Trek, Bridge Crew.
In this game, you are on bridge of either the Federation Starship Aegis or the original Enterprise. The detail is amazing. You can sit at any one of four stations.: Helm, Tactical, Engineering and, of course, the Captain’s chair.
Each station has its own console and responsibilities. Helm steers the ship, sets courses for both warp drive and impulse drive. Tactical fires phasers, photon torpedoes, scans other ships and objects, transports people on-board the ship and can disrupt enemy ships functions, such as disabling their shields, weapons, engines, etc.
The Engineering station fixes the ship, re-routes power, etc. (I need more time!) The Captain runs the show.
Here’s where it gets cool. The whole program is linked to IBM’s Watson super-computer. When you play in solo mode you are the Captain. Your crew are AIs (artificial intelligences). You can talk to them in normal language. You can say “Helm prepare for warp.”
Helm AI will respond “Yes sir.”
Engineering AI will say “Charging the warp coils Captain.”
When you are ready you actually can say “Helm, ENGAGE!” And it does!
The Watson computer is constantly learning. You can just talk to it and it tries to figure out what you want to do. This means that when you are being attacked by five Klingon Cruisers, you can shout “Red Alert! Raise shields, arm photon torpedoes, fire phasers at that goddamn Klingon! Helm! Prepare impulse. Get us the fuck out of here!” And it does. Of course, there are glitches, but for the most part, it works.
The solo part is not what the program was built for. You can play the game with three other real people. It doesn’t matter what system they own. They all work together. You have to work together to finish a mission and the missions are not easy. Usually, you blow up the ship.
“I think we’re about to die”
It’s a lot of fun. The first time I tried playing with real folks I was at the Tactical station and our Captain was a 14-year-old. The conversation went like this.
ME: Tactical is ready Captain.
CAPTAIN: Helm, prepare to warp the Devos system.
VOICE OFF IN THE DISTANCE: Honey, it’s time to leave!
CAPTAIN: Ma! I’m busy!
MOM: I don’t care what you’re doing, it’s time to go!
CAPTAIN: But Ma! I’m on a starship!
MOM: I don’t care where you are, get your butt up here.
CAPTAIN: But Ma! I’m the Captain!
The rest of us were laughing our asses off. The engineer recorded the whole episode (you can do that) and posted it on his Facebook page.
One other time we sat at the space dock for a half hour because the engineer seemed to have no idea how to energize the Warp coils. I was the Captain.
ME: So, engineering, figured out how to energize those Warp coils yet?
ENGINEER: Uh, yeah.
ME: Well, we don’t seem to be moving.
ENGINEER: Uh, yeah.
ME: Let me guess, you need more time?
ENGINEER: Uh, yeah.
Eventually we got so bored that the tactical guy started blowing up our own ships. Yeah, you can do that.
What I find odd is that many of the reviews of the game are sort of negative. They complain that you can’t get up and walk around. You are stuck in the chair in each station. Excuse me? That’s what they do in any Star Trek episode. They sit in their friggin’ chairs and to their friggin’ jobs! I mean what would happen if Captain Picard ordered Worf to lock phasers on a Romulan ship and fire … and he’s off wandering around the bridge.
PICARD: Worf! What the hell are you doing?
WORF: Uh, walking around the bridge Captain.
PICARD: Are you kidding me!! For Christ’s sake, get your ass back in that chair and fire those Goddamn phasers!
WORF: Well normally sir, I stand at my station.
PICARD: Oh for Christ’s sake!
Ever since November 8, 2016 I’ve been obsessively watching all the Star Trek series — because Star Trek Reality makes more sense than our real one. Now, until our surreal reality TV show reality returns to real reality, I’m going to spend as much time as I can in the Star Trek Virtual Reality.