This year we started to look at video games to try to understand why some people attribute violence in the real world with the games we play. What I’ve noticed is that there are seldom games that really warrant the condemnation thrown at them. That’s not to say the games need violence, but violence comes in many forms and in some cases it can propel a story or perhaps even test a players moral code. There’s something to be said for that too. I love playing games like Mass Effect and choosing the path of the paragon, and in games where I have the option to kill, I usually turn down the chance. (There have been exceptions!) The game world is very different from the real world. In the real world, you have to get up, go out, get the weapon, do the harm, and hope to get out unscathed. It’s way easier to sit at a desk or on a couch and play make-believe in the digital world. No one is coming with a search warrant to find out where the last member of The Order was left after I killed him in Assassin’s Creed!
But not all games are sedentary. Recently I picked up a game that was totally outside my norm. It has no story, for one, and requires me to get off my bottom and do things physically. With swords I might add! Sound violent? No, this isn’t a game that will turn parents off, unless parents have a particular love for floating blue and red boxes. (Hey, it takes all kinds, right?)
Beat Saber is a VR game which retails for about $30. The idea is that you’re going to get exercise and enjoy it! You have a few modes including a “campaign mode” which is about as close as the game can come to a “story” mode. You have to complete a run of songs that will unlock each level as you go. There’s a multiplayer mode for engaging with friends, though I have not experienced playing it that way yet. Then there’s the single player mode which is different from the campaign because you choose what you want to listen to and just play at your own pace.
Let me try to explain this strange experience. Armed with what is effectively a lightsaber in each hand, you select your song and swipe the boxes that come your way, in time with the music. Each box has an arrow on it indicating which way you need to swipe. There are a variety of options you can enable like faster song, or slower song. You can disable the arrows giving greater freedom to just flow with the music. I like putting the music on for faster speed but removing the arrows. Imagine Luke Skywalker training to duel: this would have been way better than that annoying metal ball that zipped around the Millennium Falcon! I feel a bit like a dancing Darth Vader, actually.
The big problem with the game on its own is that the music that comes with it is pretty weak. It’s not terrible, but it’s not to my liking. I started the campaign and made it through level 2 before I called it quits. Luckily you can purchase music either individually or in packs. I grabbed one or two songs from the groups offered and the entire catalogue of Imagine Dragons. This was a game changer… literally. Thankfully almost every song in their catalogue is great and to lightsaber to the beat of their music is a treat! You can also increase the challenge by turning on 360 mode: this forces you to do more than stand in one spot and swipe. In 360 mode, you’re turning as quickly as possible in a full 360 degrees. (This works best with a non-cabled VR headset!) Oh, that’s not to say the standard mode leaves you standing the whole time. Large walls coast by forcing you to dodge and duck as well. The effect is that, with a good song, you’re going to be getting your daily exercise. (That way when you’re done and go back to standard gaming, you’re not feeling like you did nothing all day!)
The individual songs are about what you’d pay on Amazon; $2 per song. The packs are where you get value because I picked up the whole Imagine Dragons pack for under $10 which has about 10 songs in the batch. So yes, the game plus the songs means you will drop some money on it, but you’re getting a game, an experience, and exercise. Kinda worth it! The downside is that I recently reached out to developer Beat Games asking if they planned to release other music but they haven’t even gotten back to me. It’s a bummer because I keep thinking how magical it would be to have the Star Wars theme to light saber through? Or Doctor Who? Or Queen? Or any of dozens upon dozens of other greats! Right now, their selection ranges from BTS, Linkin Park, Panic at the Disco, and Green Day but the choices outside of that are limited (though Steam lists their entire catalogue of 64 songs with the game for $127. A steep sum to be sure, but if you just get the song you want, or find you can tolerate the default ones, the cost isn’t bad! Consider that gym membership that’s going to waste!)
So what’s today’s moral? A message for the parents? Video games are not all bad, and some even offer you the opportunity to work out while listening to your favorite music! Oh, you’ll need some room to move so a small room is not recommended but for a change of pace, this is a great game.
Check out the trailer. ML