PSVR 2 got my mum into gaming for the first time

Kayak VR screenshot
(Image credit: Better Than Life)

It’s easy to see VR as a years-long gimmick, perhaps overstaying its welcome due to its abundance of smaller, tech demo-like titles. Few and far between are full-fledged releases like Half-Life: Alyx, The Walking Dead: Saints and Sinners and Horizon: Call of the Mountain.

The scope of VR is really quite limited, too. Many of the best VR games share that same first-person viewpoint. On one hand, it’s the space’s biggest weakness; you’ll always have a decent idea of what you’re getting yourself into. On the other, though, it’s VR’s greatest strength, offering astonishing immersion that has the potential to ground you in some truly fascinating locales.

Nothing did more to remind me of that than when my mum tried out PSVR 2 for the first time. Playing Kayak VR, she had that same level of awe and speechlessness I had when I first strapped an Oculus Rift to my head nearly a decade ago. Wholesome family moment aside, it reminded me that VR is a remarkably valuable innovation in gaming that has the power to draw people in much the same way the Nintendo Wii did all those years ago. 

Another world

Kayak VR race in Antarctica

(Image credit: Better Than Life)

We all remember the first time we bowled a strike in Wii Sports, or capped zombies with light guns in House of the Dead. Little moments of gaming history that introduced millions to new, innovative forms of play. They resonate with hardcore and casual players alike, but none more so than with folks who rarely – if ever – play games at all.

There’s a very good reason for that. Peripherals like the aforementioned, and even the best VR headsets, are largely self-explanatory and easier to get to grips with than a more traditional gamepad – at least to strictly casual audiences. It’s no different with VR, which is why I think the experience resonated so strongly with my mum. Simple motion-based inputs like paddling a kayak are far more intuitive – and more engaging – than learning a separate control scheme.

If you play games on the regular, it’s easy to start taking tech like VR headsets for granted. Like any novelty, that euphoric feeling of trying something new can wear off in a short time. That’s unfortunately the case with any kind of peculiar gaming peripheral no matter how outlandish or ambitious. Once you’ve settled into the motions of what the most notable VR games tend to offer, the experiences can begin to blend together.

But for players less familiar with the space, VR can provide a genuinely memorable experience. For my mum, it wasn’t just the process of paddling her kayak with PSVR 2’s Sense controllers, it was the way she was transported to the picturesque fjords of Norway. It may sound a bit cliche to those more familiar with VR, but she told me she genuinely felt like she was really there. There’s clearly something very special going on here, especially for those who’re new to VR, or even games in general.

The cost of novelty

Gran Turismo 7 interior screenshot

(Image credit: Sony)

The biggest issue with VR, though, has nothing to do with the tech itself. It’s more that it remains largely inaccessible to casual players. The very best headsets can retail at hundreds or even thousands of dollars/pounds. And unless you’re buying a standalone headset, like the Meta Quest 2, you’ll need dedicated hardware like a PC or PS5 to even run the thing in the first place.

This wasn’t an issue shared by the Wii, which retailed at a relatively affordable $249 / £179 at launch. Price drops and sales were common, too. Plus, the free copy of Wii Sports that came with the console provided players with hundreds of hours of motion-controlled fun at no extra cost.

My hope is that the VR space can one day reach this level of affordability. But, between the Quest 2 price hike and the shockingly high cost of PSVR 2 ($549 / £529), it seems like that won’t be the case for a while. And that’s a shame as there’s clearly a huge casual appeal to VR, not unlike the Wii and even the Xbox Kinect’s motion-based play. 

I hope this changes for the better over the next decade. More seasoned gamers may have outgrown VR’s novelty, but your nan probably hasn’t. And I reckon she’d love to bez it around Watkins Glen in a Mazda Atenza in Gran Turismo 7. 

Rhys Wood
Hardware Editor

Rhys is TRG's Hardware Editor, and has been part of the TechRadar team for more than two years. Particularly passionate about high-quality third-party controllers and headsets, as well as the latest and greatest in fight sticks and VR, Rhys strives to provide easy-to-read, informative coverage on gaming hardware of all kinds. As for the games themselves, Rhys is especially keen on fighting and racing games, as well as soulslikes and RPGs.