Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Turns out I ain't ain't afraid of no ghost!

VOID: That's not only what the experience is called, it's also a
medical verb that came to mind when I was ascared.
"You were really scared, weren't you dad?" my daughter Ev asked me yesterday, at about 6:05 p.m.

"Maybe," I answered.

Except there's no maybe about it.

Just minutes before she put the question to me, I had been standing high above a major metropolitan city on a very flimsy platform with nothing but a few thin planks separating me from the dark abyss. Worse, the rickety platform was being shredded away--plank after plank--by an explosive thunder-and-wind storm.

A bucket fell off the platform and I watched as it sank into the darkness.

I really wasn't sure what my next step should be.

Which is really weird because where I really was was a small ground-level room in a downtown-Toronto restaurant entertainment complex called "The Rec Room"  wearing a virtual-reality headset. Ev had purchased a pair of tickets for me and her to check out the Rec Room's Ghostbusters VR experience. The official name of the ride is "The Void".

So after being outfitted with VR gear that included a very cool phaser-style gun that fired ribbons of sparks, we spent 13 minutes travelling around some rickety old building looking for and blasting, to pieces, ghosts.

Busting ghosts consumed 13 of the best minutes I've ever spent and it was one of the most memorable birthday presents yet and I've had my share.
MEET EVATAR: My daughter Ev presented me with this great birthday gift.  

I won't go into a shot-by-shot account of the adventure.  I simply recommend a visit.

But I did learn a few things in the process.

1) Let's deal with this one out of the gate. It's a good thing for everybody that fate made me a journalist as opposed to, like, a paramedic or search-and-rescue guy, because I'm a fraidy cat.

2) As sophisticated and as realistic as it is, the version of VR that we played with yesterday is still early-days stuff.  In the not-too-distant future--I'm thinking sometime later this afternoon--Ev's and my Ghostbuster adventure--with fancy headgear and almost lifelike avatars--will be viewed as quaint and nostalgic, about the same way we view steam engines now.

3) Speaking of steam engines, I actually remember where I was seated back in university when our professor Patrick McFadden told us the supposedly true story about a crowd running in fear from a movie theatre 100 and some years ago as they watched the silent film "Arrival of A Train at  La Ciotat." McFadden said moving pictures were so new people thought a real train was coming right at them. Last night, I joined that audience.

4)  After our 13-minutes of VR, Ev and I exited, exhilarated. My adrenaline was still pumping and heart pounding. The experience seemed so real it might as well have been. This VR stuff could be a game changer in several rilly rilly significant areas of activity, if you catch my drift. (On another occasion, Ev and I held a related discussion and agreed that anyone who says you can't fall in love with a machine has never owned a motorcycle.)

THE FALL HAUNTING SEASON: (Don't tell anybody but blasting
ghosts to smithereens is super childishly fun.)
5) If that's not scarier than standing on a disintegrating ledge high above a dark city I don't know what is.

6) Daughters can read your mind. At the height of our battle, after a screaming virtual reality elevator ride to the top of the pretend building, we found ourselves out in the "open air."  Ev bravely led the way and I tried to play Joe Cool and hang back near the wall. And even with headgear that made it impossible to see my real face, Ev sensed that I was really scared of falling to my death. I had to keep telling myself, "it's only pretend." Problem was, I wasn't believing myself.

7) Some part-time jobs are better than others. The following just occurred to me:  One of the rules they tell you before you suit up is, "If you find yourself having a hard time for any reason, just raise your hand and an attendant will help you." The thing is, once we were ready for battle, the only thing we could see was the pretend world. So...for the next 13 minutes, the two pleasant young men who helped us get ready must have been killing themselves as Ev and I flailed around an empty room like a couple of hallucinogenic-ingesting ravers. We were twisting and ducking and yelling things like  "Watch out!" "Quick shoot! and "Oh man this is nuts." I wish I'd seen us.

8) I'm hands-down the most dupable person I've ever met. And for that, I blame each and every one of my older brothers and sisters. And if you have more time on your hands, you can read why here.

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