When asked what types of careers they wanted as adults, 20% of teens wanted jobs in art, design entertainment, sports, and media. According to the study from C+R Research, only 2% of today’s current workforce consists of those types of jobs so that’s a large disparity between demand and available opportunities in those fields.
Fifty years ago it was relatively common to hear young people aspire to be rock stars, but times change and today we have a new breed of rockers who use virtual stages and instruments, but who could potentially become a new breed of rock legends with the help of social media.
Anotherway’s Unplugged launched last Thursday, October 21, on Oculus Quest. The VR game also will be available on PCVR later this fall, but will require Valve Index controllers to play, and really the beauty of this experience is in hand-tracking available with the Quest. Before you rush to purchase it, however, there’s a caveat.
Considered part of the “VR music game” genre, Unplugged comes from developer Anotherway, a rather new VR development studio founded in 2020 by Ricardo Acosta and Julia Casal. Publisher Vertigo Games has quite a bit more experience in the VR gaming field with titles like Arizona Sunshine, Traffic Jams, and critically acclaimed A Fisherman’s Tale.
Unplugged enables VR users to strap on a headset, choose a song, and play air guitar live on stage. Rock music from world-famous bands such as The Offspring, Weezer, and Ozzy Osbourne are included among the titles.
There are some problems with Unplugged and we’ll get to those in a minute, but first let’s cut to the chase. The best part of the experience is the spectacular hand tracking available on the Oculus Quest.
The game is quite literally “air guitar” since you’re holding on to nothing while your fingers strum and press strings. Most of us are used to playing VR with touch controllers so it’s a little odd to have nothing in your hands and it takes a little getting used to, but once you’re accustomed to the feeling, it’s fine. And that’s part of the beauty of hand tracking. It only takes a short training to acclimate the mind to this new wonder.
Most of the time I’m so totally immersed in VR games that it’s easy to think I’m really flying through space, dodging punches in a boxing ring, or walking across the plains while watching out for snipers. Obviously, I know those things aren’t real, but it’s fun to feel like they are.
Unfortunately, I never felt like I was actually on stage while I was playing the air guitar in Unplugged. For anyone who really wants to feel like a rock star, that might be a deal-breaker, but for me, it really wasn’t. I was more focused on getting the notes right and making it through the songs.
The hand tracking was pretty amazing, but I had a couple of different issues.
First, I play seated and the game is supposed to be playable seated or standing, but it’s a little challenging to play the game seated. This might be exacerbated because I’m a female and couldn’t quite get the positioning of the guitar correct without either hitting my legs or my chest. I’ve seen this with other VR games and I’m guessing that if seated testing takes place, it’s most likely with males and there is a difference.
The second big issue is that I have no idea how to play guitar. It was obvious that you’re supposed to use fingers that correspond with the colors on the strings, but I never quite understood if I was supposed to strum with the pick the entire time or only when the notes lit up. During the tutorial, Steel Panther’s Satchel said to strum in tune with the beat, but sometimes I still had skulls (negative feedback) when I did that.
It was a bit confusing since I had never played any type of guitar other than a battery-run toy my children had as preschoolers. I did figure it out after several songs and finally just kept my hand moving constantly, which seemed to earn extra points and applause.
Perhaps most people actually have some musical experience that I never had growing up, and I definitely expect that most VR users would enjoy Unplugged as a standing versus seated experience. It’s also quite likely that most users wouldn’t have to worry about female body parts so most of my complaints about this VR game are minor or specific to particular users.
However, the thing that bothered me most would definitely impact anyone and that was the sexual innuendo throughout the tutorial. Hosted by Satchel, his appearance and voice are nice, but it would’ve been much better without the off-color comments and thinly veiled references to masturbation. It wasn’t just one instance, but practically the entire tutorial was full of comments that made me want to take off the headset and head for the shower. I’m pretty open-minded about things, but there’s no reason to refer to someone wanting to have sex with themselves, make references to the dirty cloth on the nightstand, etc.
If you’re a rocker or if you’re interested in hand-tracking, you might enjoy this title. It is an impressive accomplishment in regards to hand-tracking and it’s nice to see what can be done on the Oculus Quest 2.
With that said, we’re seeing increasing instances of inappropriate sexual misconduct throughout VR ecosystems and while this is a single-player game, it’s not intended to be a title to sell sex or porn. If that were the case, it would be different, but it isn’t. We don’t need a rock star or anyone else doing tutorials in VR that sound more like a training session on self-pleasuring.
For sure this isn’t something I’d recommend for younger VR users and if Anotherway creates another version of the game in the future, I hope they’ll simply focus on some hard rock history or music facts or pretty much anything other than unamusing jokes that kind of made me want to turn off the experience before I was even able to play any music.
Normally I’d never suggest skipping a tutorial, but in this case, if you want to experience some top-notch hand tracking and enjoy rock music in VR, then skip the intro and go straight to the music tracks. This will avoid all the cringe commentary and you’ll figure the rest out easily enough.
The game is available for Oculus Quest headsets through the Oculus store for $24.99.
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