I‘m frequently asked to make recommendations, so here we go. And, yes, I am challenging you to name yours. A couple of caveats: First, I don’t cover games per se, so that eliminates about 75% of VR experiences out there. I’ve never even done Half-Life Alyx, which many consider the best PC VR experience. Everything on my list is available on Quest and Steam unless noted otherwise. Also, some of these experiences are no longer available, so I have not exactly limited myself to ten. Here’s the list in no particular (unranked) order.
1. Fat Boy Slim’s VR Concert
This was a limited promotional event to show off Engage’s new Metaverse platform, LINK. It took place a few weeks ago and, at least for the moment, the company has no plans to bring it back. This is part of an emerging genre of music experiences called MILEs (Massive Interactive Live Events) like Travis Scott’s Astronomical in Fortnite, and the Gorillaz AR experience in Times Square. The band may be recorded, but the people around you are live.
2. Dr. Crumb’s School For Disobedient Pets
In my Forbes review, I described it as “a thrilling and original VR mashup of escape rooms, improv theater, games, and cartoons.” There is still time, but maybe not much time, to grab your friends and book a private show.
3. Where Thoughts Go
Created by Lucas Rizzotto, this is, in my opinion, one of the most substantial works of art in VR.
4. Tilt Brush
This spatial drawing tool by Google makes everyone who does it the first time go “wow.” I delight in sharing it with my students every semester.
5. Google Earth
As you can imagine, this is a very very big program because it encompasses the entire earth. To stride across the continent like a god you need a PC with a terabyte of disc space because the world is indeed a very, very big place.
6. Vader Immortal
The holy grail of movies is to make you the hero. This groundbreaking VR experience from ILMxLab is not perfect, but it is seminal. A harbinger of the movie of the future. It is probably VR’s most expensive experience, too, although the budget’s not been disclosed. Meta covered the cost to make sure they had an exclusive.
7. Richie’s Plank Experience
This is the first thing I show my students. Developed by ToastVR, it’s a must, in my humble opinion. A user in a headset goes up a virtual elevator, which opens onto the edge of the roof. A plank juts out into the air in front of you. I bring in a real plank to heighten the illusion.
8. The Changing Same
Yasmin Eliyat (Zero Days VR) puts you in the back seat of a cop car where you experience 400 years of racial injustice. It filled me with empathy, rage, and frustration. This is episode one so presumably, there will be more to this story, which won the Tribeca Film Festival’s Best Immersive Experience in 2021.
Produced by Atlas V and directed by Martin Allias and Nico Casavechia, this animated narrative experience stars Rosario Dawson as a runaway teen who finds herself in the middle of the NY punk rock scene in 1978. The directors play with scale and perspective to take advantage of some of VR’s most cinematic qualities.
10. Allumette & Arden’s Wake
Eugene Chung’s VR animation studio Penrose has produced two of the most stunning VR films out there. They are what I call “Dollhouse” experiences. We’re observing animated characters from outside their world, like giant children peeking in a window.
I continue to believe VR has the potential to reconnect people with the underappreciated art of live performance, so I always say yes to experiences that feature live actors. Props to Tender Claws for The Tempest, Finding Pandora X from Double Eye Studio, and Gumball Dreams by Ferryman Collective for pioneering this new genre. None of these shows are available in VR right now.
Sports and fitness are also turning out to be one of the most popular activities in VR. Although I’m not a gamer, I love Walkabout Mini Golf and Golf+. If you like real golf, you now have a reason to get a VR headset.
I have no doubt I’ve missed a masterpiece or three. Let me know!
Charlie Fink is the author of the AR-enabled books “Metaverse,” (2017) and “Convergence” (2019). In the early 90s, Fink was EVP & COO of VR pioneer Virtual World Entertainment. He teaches at Chapman University in Orange, CA.