WARSAW — When it comes to virtual reality gameplay, it did not take much for Tyson Barnett, Warsaw Community Public Library’s information technology supervisor, to become hooked. After purchasing his own virtual reality set for Playstation, he brought it in to the library for his fellow employees to test.
It became an instant hit.
As a special treat for the end of the summer reading block party, the library brought in Roy’s VR and it was a huge success with the block party participants. While the state has VR technology they lend to libraries, the wait list is long and the library does not get to keep it for very long. This inspired the Warsaw Library to purchase its own Oculus Rift VR system a little more than a year ago.
“We try to stay on top of new technology,” Anna Jackson, teen and young adult librarian, stated. This led them to also get an HTC Vive system thanks to money donated by their Friends of the Library group which just debuted last month.
Owning two VR systems, which is incredibly rare for a library, allows it to “let people experience VR because it is such a new technology,” Jackson explained. It has become extremely popular among all age groups, from older kids to senior citizens.
Currently the library is able to offer access to its VR systems at least three times a month in the teen drop in zone, adult drop in zone and a new VR club. Jackson commented, “We could probably do VR every week and still have a wait list.” At each event there is a sign up sheet to test the virtual reality in 15 minute increments. This allows up to 20 people to play VR during the two hour window utilizing both systems.
However, the library is experimenting with different days and times to best reach the community in the hopes of adding more times to test the VR technology.
There are games for anyone between the two systems, though the Oculus Rift does have more games available simply because they have had it longer. These include some favorites such as Beat Saber which combines Guitar Hero with lightsabers, zombie shooting, a Spiderman demo, Epic Rollercoaster and Face Your Fear. A haunted house game is extremely popular, especially near Halloween, because friends like to dare one another to stay in the game the longest. Speaking from experience, Barnett added, “Even someone coming up and putting their hand on you can freak someone out.”
The Oculus Rift system has many favorite games that are free. For the HTC Vive, Barnett described how the library has a subscription to try five new games each month. Part of his job is to provide quality control by testing games to decide which may be worth purchasing and what the community may enjoy the most. When either of the systems gets a new game, Jackson and other employees who assist with the VR club and drop in zones must test the games so they can help first-timers. “We have to play the games so we’re familiar enough with it to walk people through it without seeing what they’re seeing on the screen,” Jackson commented. Since each person only gets 15 minutes to play, she believes each person should get the most out of those 15 minutes.
Individuals can find the first few times difficult when it comes to adjusting to VR. The player must be aware of their space so they do not hit the computer screen or throw a controller. Certain games can evoke the same feeling as motion sickness and a feeling Jackson described as “VR drunk” when a beginner plays for long periods since it can cause minor dizziness and disorientation. That is part of the reason each person is limited to 15 minutes. However, Barnett reassured, “The more you do it, the more comfortable you become with it.”
Jackson emphasized she wants “to reach a broader number of people” so the library is able to “give this experience to as many people as possible.” In fact she is visibly excited about being able to introduce people to this technology for the first time. “I love being able to introduce it to people,” she stressed. “I love seeing people’s reactions when they try VR for the first time.”
“To have this in a library is just so phenomenal,” Jackson enthusiastically declared. “We’re more than just books.”