The VR community teamed up with Oculus and ESL to present a community-focused event at DreamHack in Atlanta, GA that impressed traditional gamers with the power of immersive reality and introduced them to VR esports through boot camps and friendly scrimmages.
VR community member volunteers welcomed exhibit visitors, explained game objectives, helped guests with hardware, and then coached them in games like Downpour Interactive’s Onward and Ready At Dawn’s Echo Arena.
“I had never attended any conventions like DreamHack before,” stated Eric Fulkerson, a 39-year-old who drove to Atlanta from Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania. “I was simply hoping to gain the experience of attending a gamer-centric event.”
Fulkerson, who goes by the gamer tag "TheBowtiedGuy," attended the gaming festival with members of Team Dixx, “a group of aggressively average tri-hards, content creators, and tech enthusiasts looking to win, grow and connect,” according to the welcome on their Team Dixx Discord server.
“I wasn’t even planning on trying VR,” Fulkerson added, “I was just milling around the exhibit area watching the other players. Prior to trying VR, I held the belief that the VR experience would feel like using your head as a mouse.”
This misconception is one of many held by people who have never tried VR. For the author of this article, I’ll admit that I was incredibly hesitant to try VR in 2017 because it just looked like some other goofy tech my family wanted me to try. The reality is that VR is mind-blowing.
At DreamHack Atlanta, community members and leaders from the VR Master League (VRML), Collegiate VR Esports League (CVRE), and VR Community Builders (VRCB) played against each other at the beginning and end of each day, but spent most of the time at DreamHack running boot camps for new players. In addition to Onward and Echo Arena, other multiplayer games featured at DreamHack were Phaser Lock Interactive’s Final Assault and Ready At Dawn’s Echo Combat, a first-person shooter set in zero-g.
Veteran community members regularly introduce people to VR through various events and personal evangelism efforts. They understand that putting people in headsets is the single most effective way for people to understand the power of virtual reality.
“After watching the excitement of the other players,” continued Fulkerson, “I decided I would at least try VR, and WOW! I couldn’t believe how immersive the VR game actually was. I found myself ducking and dodging to avoid objects and players in the game; [It was] an unparalleled gaming experience.”
Another member of Team Dixx who goes by the gamer tag AGGR3SSOR, drove down from Southeast Virginia, where he serves on active duty in the U.S. military. The 40-year-old was eager to “meet with fellow Team Dixx members in person, meet other like-minded gaming enthusiasts and content creators, and discover new technologies.”
“I really enjoyed the opportunity to fly through space in zero gravity,” he stated in a post-event interview about his experience in Echo VR. “The full immersion and ability to turn my head and immediately see what I was looking for was the best part.”
AGGR3SSOR returned to the VR exhibit several times with other members of Team Dixx because they “wanted to try the various games and hardware while working as a team.”
Volunteers from the VR Master League were able to adjust setups so the team could play a 5 v 5 Onward demo.
Although DreamHack was the first time most of them had been in virtual reality, the team was able to coordinate, communicate, and move tactically because physical reality easily translates into VR.
“It really was just like the close quarters training and experience I have from real life missions,” stated AGGR3SSOR.
He went on to explain that the 1,000 members of Team Dixx were talking about VR before DreamHack, but they were waiting for the right time to get into it.
"Now it's all anybody is talking about. You can't buy advertising like that. It's trusted gamer friends telling their teammates that the future of gaming has arrived."
In addition to the multiplayer games on Oculus Rift S headsets, exhibit visitors were also able to play Cloudhead Games’ Pistol Whip and Beat Games’ Beat Saber 360 on the Oculus Quest, a popular standalone VR headset released earlier this year.
DreamHack is a 24-hour-a-day festival that celebrates its 25th anniversary next week during DreamHack Winter in Sweden. DreamHack Atlanta began in 2017 and attracts nearly 25,000 visitors from 48 states and 25 countries. The gaming lifestyle festival will make its west coast debut in Anaheim in February.
Sonya Haskins writes for VR League, VR Fitness Insider, and VRespawn, where she is also senior editor. Sonya lives with her husband and five children in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains in Northeast Tennessee.