I never thought I would describe a video game as "relaxing."
But that's just how I'd describe my recent experience playing two games with Gear VR, Samsung's $100 set of VR goggles that works with all of Samsung's latest flagship phones.
For a few minutes on Friday afternoon, I was whisked away to a quiet, peaceful library. A fire crackled in the fireplace, and soothing music played on the radio.
A game of solitaire was suspended in front of me. But I played without moving my hands — no tapping or dragging was required. All it took to move a card across the playing surface, or from the hand to the tableau, was moving my head ever so slightly.
I was playing "Solitaire Jester," a virtual reality version of the classic card game.
A few moments before that, I was sitting on a pond in a lush rainforest, casting a fishing line a reeling in different types of fish.
Both games are created by the Stockholm-based VR gaming studio Resolution Games. And both were incredibly relaxing, easy to play, and peaceful.
It's the type of experience that I think will help VR go mainstream.
Just a few moments after I played "Solitaire Jester," I tried out "Pollen," a first-person VR exploration game from Mindfield Games, a Helsinki-based game studio. I played it using a developer's version of the Oculus Rift, the $600 VR headset slated to come out in a few months.
Unlike the Gear VR, which only requires a smartphone and headphones, you need a powerful PC (you'll have to spend at least $1,000) in order to use Oculus Rift.
As you can imagine, playing "Pollen" was a much different experience than playing solitaire or fishing on a smartphone-enabled VR headset. In "Pollen," I explored a dilapidated space station looking for clues. I could interact with pretty much any object I encountered, like books, cans, and a microwave.
It was completely immersive and the graphics were amazing.
But as a non-gamer, it was intimidating. Even though I only played it for a few minutes, I could tell I'd have to overcome a big learning curve to get anything (beyond just being impressed with the experience) out of the game.
The last game consoles I regularly played were the original PlayStation and the Nintendo 64, about 20 years ago, so I'm not accustomed to the Xbox controller that comes with Oculus. I had trouble simply moving in a straight line, and I found that I got nauseous playing it (a relatively common occurrence when using VR).
Don't get me wrong — "Pollen" was amazing, and I can see why a lot of people really looking forward to it. But I think it will be the lighter experiences, like "Solitaire Jester" and Resolution's new fishing game that will help get non-gamers into VR, which, in turn, will propel it to the mainstream.
Just about every major tech and media company is working on virtual reality. Facebook (which owns Oculus), Google, YouTube, Netflix, Vimeo, Hulu, and Twitch, to name just a few, are also experimenting with VR solutions and experiences. Even Apple reportedly has a team of "hundreds" working on virtual reality, and its CEO publicly said he thinks VR is "really cool." It's likely one of these companies will help VR catch on with regular people, but based on my experiences, VR will need lots of simple, easygoing content to help people feel more comfortable on this emerging platform.