In the 1999 sci-fi action film The Matrix, the wise mentor Mopheus explains to the hero Neo that if you die in the film’s simulated world, you also die in real life. It turns out that rule doesn’t carry over to Sony’s PlayStation VR, but that doesn’t mean you’re invulnerable in virtual reality — especially if you’re a dummy like me.
I might have pulled a neck muscle because of PlayStation VR.
To be fair to Sony’s $500 head-mounted display, which launches October 13 for PS4, I likely injured myself because of the way I was using PSVR. The device will debut Thursday with a number of games, and a number of them have you move your head as part of their controls. Rez Infinite, SuperHyperCube, and others involve quite a lot of head bobbing and tilting. For me, however, it was the humorous soccer-training simulator Headmaster that I think really tweaked my tendons.
Headmaster puts you in the role of a soccer star who needs to do some work to improve their head-butting skills. Naturally, that means your coach sent you to the Football Improvement Center, which likes to remind its guests that it isn’t a prison.
In the yard of this facility, you practice headbutting soccer balls at targets while guard towers surround you. Machines send the balls soaring toward your face, and you can direct them where you want by positioning and moving your head correctly. It’s a fun idea — one that works well on PSVR because you don’t have to worry about simultaneously tracking a headset and a controller. But I think I trained a little too hard.
I played Headmaster for about 45 minutes, and I didn’t notice any problems other than a slight discomfort in my neck. I figured that was because I was simply working muscles I typically don’t use during my rigorous job of writing about video games on the internet. But as I sat down to relax a few hours later, I started to feel a distinct pain that ran from the base of my skull down through the left side of my neck and into the tops of my shoulders. It was sharpest when I would swivel my noggin, but it was always present.
My guess is that I was far too aggressive in the way I was playing Headmaster. You don’t need to slam the ball; you just need to lightly guide it. But I probably gave myself some minor whiplash from swinging my melon around. That’s a pretty dumb thing to do at any time, but it takes a special kind of stupid to do it with a headset wrapped around your forehead for extra ligament damage.
I’m feeling quite a lot better now. I took some pain killers the night of the injury and went to sleep with an ice pack on the affected area. It’s a few days later, and I think I’m ready for some more soccer training at gunpoint. Let’s just hope I’m less of a moron going forward.