As part of my research I have seen hundreds of people experience DEEP for the first time: children, parents, teachers, scientists, gamers, game designers, therapists, entrepreneurs, research participants you name it! But even after seeing it so many times it never gets old.
When I demo the game, it usually starts out with someone standing a couple feet away from the booth quietly observing someone else playing. There are looks of hesitance, intrigue and sometimes even skepticism and I immediately wonder what their faces will look like after exiting the world of DEEP.
Once someone approaches and agrees to give it a go, the (slightly awkward) dance begins where I put on the controller belt around their diaphragm while I explain what DEEP is and what they are going to experience without giving too much away. And then the game starts..
For some people it happens early on, they just instinctively feel what they have to do, and settle in a natural breathing rhythm fairly quickly. They float around the virtual underwater world and calmly explore as though it’s something they do every day. For others, it starts out a bit uneasy which is often accompanied by comments like “are you sure it’s working correctly?’’. I see them exaggerate their breathing or manipulate their muscles to manipulate the belt instead of breathing naturally. This figuring-it-out phase is all part of the process so it does not worry me, but I always hope that they have enough time to play because for most people, there will eventually be a moment where it just.. clicks.
The moment it clicks, all of the tension in the player’s posture slowly fades and they settle into a steady breathing pattern. They are no longer thinking, they are just experiencing, pulled in by the beautiful environment that DEEP offers. And when it’s time to stop the game, they are sad to leave that world behind. I’ve seen this click happen many times, but I’m always so delighted when it does.
To be honest, this click doesn’t happen for everyone. Some people just never find their rhythm, some just don’t feel comfortable in virtual reality and some just don’t connect with the game at all. But that’s alright, not all games appeal to everyone, it would be weird if they did. However, when someone does connect with a game and when this click does indeed happen, it is truly magical to observe.