Team Outing at MassVR
It’s been a little while since our team has had an outing. We all work a good deal, but it’s been nice to also have opportunities to interact outside of the office as well. After a lot of discussion as to where our next venue would be, we landed on MassVR, a multi-person VR gaming session.
Despite my advice to others about leaving early (the place was located in a mall out in Skokie), I got stuck in some pretty brutal traffic. Crawling along at 8 mph, I was absolutely convinced at a certain point that I’d be 30+ minutes late and everyone would just need to start without me.
Luckily, I picked up some time on the Edens… and ended up walking in only about 5 minutes later. Seriously though, that was a stressful drive out. Note to self: Hyde Park to Skokie needs the full hour.
After a walkthrough video about how to put on the gear, we got walked into our arena. The whole space definitely used to be some kind of large department store (and to be quite honest, I’m wondering if it used to be a Sears).
In hindsight, I’m not sure if we all walked that far over there or not. The VR world vs the physical world is a weird thing to consider.
Here’s the super interesting thing: while we were all in the same physical space and all in the same map, we were each seeing very different parts of the map.
Someone could be next to you, physically, in the real world. But in the VR game they would be two floors above you, maybe 30 feet away.
In the game, physical people nearby get shown as a yellow outline with a “warning” ribbon circling them. Letting you know someone is close by. But as you’re moving around and respawning, the map you see is very different from the map someone next to you might be seeing.
The team, getting some last minute instructions before donning the gear. L to R it’s Zohair, Sajit, Anjana, Shane, Timo, Steven, and Shyamal.
The backpacks and headgear that each person wears for the game. It was difficult not to hear the Ghostbusters theme song playing in the background.
Shane and Zohair, getting set up.
A neat thing about the VR environment: you could hold up your hand, palm up, and get a real-time display of the score and time remaining in the game. If you flipped your hand around you’d be able to see your remaining health and kill streak/deaths.
Shyamal was the first of us to get fully suited up, and began exploring the world.
Sadly, I didn’t have the foresight to give my phone to one of the techs and get more photos of us while we were playing. I’m sure it would have been goofy, but that still would have been interesting to see.
Overall though, the graphics were less sharp and less detailed than what I saw. But keep in mind that experience was just one person, and this involved 7 other people being tracked in real time.
The arena overall was reminiscent of early Unreal Tournament maps. But I’m excited to see what more can be done, and what things might look like in another year.
That said, the physics and sense of “I’m on the second story, looking down” still worked. Falling down felt like falling, walking up an incline was super weird on the brain, and travelling via zipline still felt like a thrill.
Overall, a very cool experience. And something I feel like most of us would want to try out again.
After the event, we got some videos of our gameplay. Nothing of us directly, but here are our two sessions in full:
We split off, back end vs front end (and design). I think we were at a draw in the first game, and the backend folks wiped the floor with us the second game.
Of note, here are two particular highlights. One is me dying a rather undignified death.
After we were done playing, we ended up going to a Cheesecake Factory for a late dinner (which felt like a super mall thing to do – but, when in the suburbs, do as the suburbans do). Had a fun time chatting and just hanging out with folks, before parting ways back to the city.
I feel very fortunate to have a work environment that promotes this type of activity. Beyond just us going out, we got to stop our work day early, head out an hour outside the city, just to play games together.
Technically, the event was about us creating a division amongst ourselves and fighting one another for an hour and a half. But I still say it counts as team-building.