SUPERHOT VR hit the scene in 2016 with a bunch of exciting ideas and concepts that have proven to be extremely influential in the realm of VR gaming. However, a number of these scenarios and gameplay mechanics have just been removed due to concerns relating to players’ mental health.
SUPERHOT VR is a first-person shooter that revolutionised the virtual reality sector of gaming. A big part of the game’s appeal was the inventive way the development team utilised VR technology to narrow the gap between reality and the experience of playing a video game.
What I mean by this is that traditionally in a video game, particularly a first-person shooter, players aren’t terribly worried by the idea of dying. Taking a few shots to the head or falling to a grisly demise is all part of the experience, and for many players, part of the fun.
Because of perspective, and other video gamey features like health bars, it doesn’t actually feel like you are dying. SUPERHOT VR deliberately tried to utilise newly available technology to immerse players in something that felt more connected to a real experience.
An obvious example of this is a level that required the player to make a jump that would result in falling to one’s death in real life. Many players struggled immensely with how real it felt, having their real survival instincts plead with them to not try such a foolish action. A similarly confronting puzzle involved the player having to shoot themselves in the head.
On release in 2016 these sections sparked debate, but the consensus appeared to be that their triggering potential was outweighed by their innovation. SUPERHOT VR wasn’t trying to hurt anyone, they were challenging the limits of what a video game could make you feel. In short, it was exciting art.
Fast forward to today’s state of affairs and all of sudden these scenes seem far more worrisome. The argument isn’t that the team behind SUPERHOT VR were ever trying to encourage self-harm or trigger their players, but rather to highlight the risk of a vulnerable person becoming more comfortable with self-harming behaviours through a virtual proxy.
In an official statement on Steam the SUPERHOT VR developers wrote:
“Skip disturbing scenes” toggle was added in a previous update. Considering sensitive time we’re living in, we can do better than that. You deserve better. All scenes alluding to self harm are now completely removed from the game. These scenes have no place in superhot virtual reality. We regret it took us so long.”
Concise. Informative. Reasonable. While no doubt some players will feel the update is overly cautious, it is preferable that it’s coming from the team of creators themselves, rather than censors who so frequently lack any sense of nuance.
SUPERHOT VR is available on PS4, PC, Xbox One, Switch, Mac, and Oculus.
If you or anyone you know are experiencing issues with mental health, you can call Lifeline on 13 11 14, or Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4636.