Last autumn, my wife went away for a while. I got to thinking: What if I bought a massive pile of PlayStation VR kit on eBay, spent every waking hour catching up on years of missed gaming, then sold everything again before she came back, as if nothing ever happened? Would that even be possible? How much would it cost? What could possibly go wrong?
What follows is the story of a secret plot, a tale of greed and riches. Take it please as inspiration – but take it too as warning.
How It Always Was
When I was 10, my best friend lived on a street called The Green. It was a semidetached circle of Welsh suburbia, around a clump of mature trees and broad, open grass. A steep sideways slope made for whacky football (and a collection of balls in the garden of bottom-end number 4). But we ignored the sunshine a lot of the time. He had an Atari ST and boy did we game. We shut the blinds on that green space and splurged the free-time riches of ten-year-olds on Delphine Software's 1991 classic Another World. That game dropped our jaws with its ending: we stood over a strange and magical landscape, mounted a winged beast and soared triumphantly from a tower top. It was a dream made real. It was the reward for the fresh air and sun we sacrificed.
How It Always Is
I'm not ten anymore – sadly not even close. I can't be a gamer now, either: time gaming would be time unshared with my wife. Even 'two-of-us' time is time kept from our little boy. If you wanted to take it to the next logical step, any money spent on games would be money out of his future. And we're expecting another! Those golden gaming days are long gone… or are they?
Last November, fate dropped me an opening. Through family circumstance, we found we would have to be apart for 5 weeks – wife and son in Japan; me home alone in the UK. Different sides of the globe; different timezones. So here's the plan: I get on eBay and buy a 10-year-old’s fantasy of gaming paraphernalia: I get a PS4 Pro, I get a huge stack of games, I get a PSVR, I get the Move controllers, the Aim controller, and any game I want. I have it all. Then I sell it. I return to normal life and no one has to know anything about it.
Fantasy Shopping List
Late November, I flew back from Tokyo, leaving my family there. The time had come: the dream was about to be made real. But what exactly was the dream? So far, I’d just planned to get “it all” but that doesn’t help in the eBay search box. Eventually, I focused on PSVR and the games that the very site you are reading right now had convinced me were essential.
Here’s the shopping list:
- PS4 Pro
- PSVR headset and camera
- Move controllers
- Aim controller
- Skyrim VR
- Resident Evil 7
- Superhot VR
- Job Simulator
- VR Worlds
- WipEout Omega Collection
- Rez Infinite
- Firewall Zero Hour
I poked around eBay and spreadsheeted typical prices. (I guess you can take the boy out of middle age but you can’t take middle age out of the boy.) I saved a thousand searches and buzzed non-stop with secret notifications at work. Eventually I hit some suitable bundles: a PS4 Pro with a stack of games – a nice bonus to play some of those – and a PSVR bundle with five VR games I had listed, one I hadn’t (R.I.G.S.) and The Last Guardian – which I suddenly remembered I had been yearning to play for 10 years. I ticked off the rest of the wishlist in individual purchases.
Here’s the damage:
|Item||Price Inc. P&P|
|PS4 Pro Bundle||£335|
|Aim Controller with Firewall Zero Hour||£40
I bought the PS4 on a Saturday and the guy delivered it in his valeted white saloon car that afternoon. He left his profile picture on the machine, smiling at home with his partner and their cat – a cheery greeting every time I booted up in my newly bachelorised pad. The PSVR arrived on a weekday so I ran to the Post Office after work and snuck in at closing, to the irritation of the already coat-and-hatted clerk. My arms throbbed at the weight on the way home. The dream had arrived.
Unboxing The Dream
I went hundred-million on my imagination’s YouTube for the ultimate unboxing. The hopes of recaptured youth, released with a gasp from a corner-torn Sony box of convincing bulk. The PS4 Pro slipped and sucked out of the box, puffing with it a crisp, carefree pine smell of car air freshener. Yuck. Someone else’s freshened air. I didn’t want someone else’s life to come with my games! This is my private indulgence and someone else’s is gross. I cracked out the disinfectant wipes and slicked every millimetre of that bundle. Cables taut to scrub; penknife in the plastic seams; tissues of dug crud. I am now the world’s leading expert on disinfecting Sony electronics.
Next up was the PSVR bundle. It was packed in an off-brand oven chips box with a mile of tape. The tape left the cardboard flimsy and limp, almost damp. I flapped it open and WOOF! Pub-carpet stink. Fags and beer and fag-ends in beer-empties and faint, cheap, optimistic aftershave. I looked through the emerging green cloud at the sloppy rubber headset seal that was going to have to lip onto my face. We’re going to need more wipes. And maybe some pine air freshener.
It took scrubbing, scraping and overnight airing and soaking but I was finally ready to put my head into the thing. I started with VR Worlds – to see if the PSVR tech was really ready for prime time.
Boom. Just sitting in the game lobby, I’m terrified. I sometimes get an agoraphobic tingle when gaming – wide expanses of water normally do it – and I was tingling big time, looking nervously behind me. Suddenly, in VR, the game’s all over me. I don’t own the environment any more, in its neat rectangle in the corner of my living room, my domain. The game shuts out everything else. Fear and thrill. The tech is ready, and it has an overwhelming power. I won’t resist it. A nostalgic dream, wrangled into a specific list, reached out for, now in my life. The old dreams are real.
All else I needed before diving into my swimming pool of games was a friend. Fortunately, with a free house, it was easy to recruit another former-gamer desperate dad with the same rose-tinted varifocals.
Over the course of a weekend, we chomped greedily through games like billionaires through caviar: if one was not immediately to our taste, we simply hung our mouths open and waited for it to fall out. That's what billionaires do. One game each of WWEs 2K17 and 2K18; one each of FIFAs 15, 16 and 17. The Last of Us was next and wouldn't even fit in the slot, bulging with all its Game-Of-The-Years. I literally had to hammer it in. I googled and apparently it gets good after 3–4 hours. NEXT!
Onto the meat of it: Resident Evil 7. Not. Even. Funny. Those first thirty minutes were a masterclass in horror gaming. I have never spent so long in a game just standing still. My friend laughed at me until he had a go. That was a game I came back to finish.
Job Simulator: £50 for 25 minutes. Trying to be funny is not as funny as scaring the shit out of someone. Nor is it as funny as the London Heist game in VR Worlds: tickle that gangster's gurning chin; drop all his guns out the car door; see if you can climb out yourself, overegging like a mime artist; throw a soda cup at a killer motorcyclist; sit back and die. Laugh. Discs lying around. Blinds closed. Freedom spent with abandon. The old dream is real.
So all told, I'm £750 in the hole and what have I got? It may not be as striking to Push Square readers as it is to me, but gaming-wise I've gone from has-been to has-it-all. From where I am, I can see the cutting edge of console gaming, even if I’m not quite going to actually cut myself.
Here's how it looks to me.
Jumped-up demo disc? I got great mileage out of it – especially playing with friends. Essential for PSVR newbies, I would say.
Try-hard humour. Kid-friendly content, though, and basic, innocent fun. Plus you can use your Moves for something.
Resident Evil 7 VR
Should be a PSVR system-seller. Creeping and peeping: thrills like a TV can't manage. Ferociously scary. Don't play in a creaky old house when your family’s away.
A pretty rail-walk with a good sense of scale. Comment fuel: “The Aim controller is a forgettable novelty. Discuss.”
Experience the majesty of being immersed in a living, breathing 2007 PC game. I half expected a pop-up about soundcard compatibility. Desperately dated – but I sort of see the appeal.
WipEout Omega Collection
Brilliant VR implementation. Turn off the ABS (Anti-Barf Systems) if you can stomach it. If you like WipEout, you'll love it in VR.
A classic I OD'd on back in the day. In VR, it's a doddle, so delightfully relaxing. Level 5 remains an unparalleled 20-minute treatise on the joy of video games. Now you can be inside it.
Wow. An astonishing experience, impossible without VR. Would this alone justify the significant cost of headset, camera, and Move controllers? Maybe. Okay, yes. Killer-app territory – but requires player mobility.
Too Much Of A Good Thing?
What have the decades done to kids’ dreams? I may be £750 down at this point in the story but back on The Green, age 10, we were heavily invested in a different way. When you can only have one game, and when you’ve put 2 weeks of afterschools into it, you’re not going to let a difficulty spike or a long grind put you off. That’s how Another World got away with cruel, repetitious game design – like making us write lines in detention until we’d understood the error of our ways.
Back to middle age. With so many games to play, the cost of each is insignificant. Even with modern game design, when The Last of Us made the polite and respectful request that we be patient, we said “Nah” and moved on. We brushed away a masterpiece with the backs of our bored hands. Two obvious truths I’d refused to admit: games don’t make you a gamer and you can’t buy your childhood on eBay.
You’ll notice I didn’t review R.I.G.S. It had no chance against my overfed lethargy. I was my own dad, falling asleep full-tummy in front of the motor racing he’d been waiting all week for. I never put R.I.G.S. in the drive. Meanwhile, Firewall, the hottest hotness at that time, stayed sealed in its plastic. I suppose the plastic was just too thick to be worth the effort. Made it more eBay-able, at least.
Is This Just Fantasy?
Lying, spent, on the floor of the living room, games and toys scattered around, I began to scrape the discs and boxes towards me, cheek pressing heavily on the cold floorboards. I scraped them in, photoed them on my phone and listed them on eBay without even standing up or putting trousers on.
I updated my spreadsheet. Sales were good. I even made a couple of profits – Job Simulator sold for over £70! I got chatting with some of the buyers. A father was Christmas shopping for his girls. A fresh divorcee was doing exactly what I was doing, but without the scheduled sell-up date.
Following many requests to a late-payer, I started to tell them lies: “I need the money to take my family to Disneyland – don’t make me cancel!” That’s when I realised it was indeed all just a lie: I didn’t have to miss my son for long; I already knew my family life was coming back; I could leave games untouched because they were all only temporary. This is all fiction: I’m not divorced, not a bachelor, not living in a Hollywood romcom where fate leaves me blamelessly liberated of secretly frustrating responsibilities. It’s just a game of gaming; not real gaming. I haven’t sacrificed anything. Not like we did when we pulled the blind on The Green.
Sliding shakily up onto my knees, I opened the empty PS4 box and started to tug at wires around the TV to pack it for the post. Then something fell from the box. It was The Last Guardian. The Last Guardian – the last game to sell – could it be the last hope for the old dream? I had 10 years of longing in this thing and, to my shame, had completely forgotten it. I loaded it up. I drew the blinds. It was this game or it was the end of childhood forever.
10 hours later. Unwashed plates and snack packets. Dark outside the blinds. Some frustrations, some battles against the camera and the control scheme and some back-and-forth searches for whatever the hell the designers were trying to get at. But the ending dropped my jaw. I stood over a strange and magical landscape, mounted a winged beast and soared triumphantly from a tower top. It was a dream made real. It was the reward for my sacrifice. Goodness me: The Last Guardian is a masterpiece and my saviour. Not a dry eye in the house.
|Item||Price Inc. P&P
||Sold for (after fees and postage)
|PS4 Pro Bundle
|DualShock 4 Charging Station||£7.61|
|Far Cry 4||£3.99|
|Metal Gear Solid 5||£3.87|
|Fifa 15||(Oxfam) £0|
|Fifa 16||(Oxfam) £0|
|The Last of Us Remastered||£9.17|
|Call of Duty Infinite Warfare||£2.38|
|Deus Ex Mankind Divided||£2.13|
|PSVR headset and camera||£120.80|
|Resident Evil 7||£8.54|
|The Last Guardian||£9.41|
|WipEout Omega Collection||£12.06|
|Aim Controller with Firewall Zero Hour||£40||£40.60||+£0.60|
The Bottom Line
Everything packed and sold, my finances looked surprisingly good. Said and done, the adventure came to about £40. Somehow I felt like it cost a great deal more – the money was beside the point. Unfortunately that late payer scuppered the whole project when he became a non-payer. I was left with the stinking oven-chip box conspicuously waiting at the door when my wife returned. I told her everything that had happened, dressed all in drama and destitution. She laughed at me, as usual, as keeps me grounded. She gave me a hug and our boy came to join in. “There you go,” she said, “he’ll play games with you when he’s older.”