Ghost Giant (PSVR, 2019)

In a recent group chat with close friends, the question was asked, “Which Pay-Per-View would sell better: Batman versus Captain America or Goku versus Superman?” Of the four of us, we were evenly split and equally set in our reasons why. 

For me, I voted Batman versus Captain America because, to borrow from wrestling, Goku versus Superman has no heat to it and, despite agreeing that it would be an epic spectacle, I could not come up with a reason to care about the fight. Contrast that with the battling ideals of Captain America and Batman, and it’s easy for me to see a story that makes that fight even more intriguing.

That is a long way of saying some people value spectacle over substance. There is nothing wrong with that, but I almost always choose the thing with something to say over the thing with a lot to show.

When it comes to videogames, especially talking about video games, most of the conversations we have are about their most spectacular elements. We hype up graphics and frame rates, we talk about the importance of draw distance, we gawk over animation quality, etc. Often (and I am guilty of this myself), we forgo an uglier, better game for a prettier, worse one. Yet, in our modern era, I am finding more and more games with things to say (regardless of their appearance) are finding a foothold.

This brings me to Ghost Giant, a game for Playstation VR I recently completed.

In Ghost Giant, you play as a giant ghost. You awaken one day in the forest to the sound of a crying boy named Louis. At first, he is surprised by your presence, but you quickly become friends. As the game progresses, you learn that only Louis can see you, and that he desperately needs your help to get sunflowers planted at his mother’s farm. 

Gameplay is a blend of point-and-click tropes with puzzles and a storybook diorama-esque feel. It was not my favorite part of playing Ghost Giant or even the reason I finished it.

For me, what made Ghost Giant click was the story. Louis feels all alone because he is alone. He managed to ruin his friendship with his only friend, and his mother is clinically depressed. Louis has taken her depression and inability to get out of bed on his own two shoulders. Like her, he refuses to seek help because he fears she might go away. It a tragic, heartbreaking piece that, even with a happy (but realistic) ending, left me crying inside a VR headset – not recommended.

Obviously in Ghost Giant’s case, it does a good job with presentation (spectacle) but excels most at story (substance), and neither of those things are mutually exclusive, but I love that games like this exist. 

I can have a ton of fun in the latest Mario or Call of Duty, but, as with every other medium – books, movies, television, music, you name it – I really, really dig something that can make me feel on spiritual level. I love walking away with a new perspective or feeling drained from the inside out. Just like finishing a good book, Ghost Giant weighed on my mind for many hours after finishing, and, nearly a week later, I can still recall the emotions it conjured up within me. Video games are largely accepted in the mainstream, but it’s these kinds of experiences I wish more people who do not play games would think of first. Or, better yet, experience for themselves.

Sure, books (and other mediums) can accomplish something similar, but each does so in subtlety different ways. Nothing reminds me of being human more than something like Ghost Giant, a game about a ghost who talks to animal-people. The gameplay, however inaccurate and frustrating I found it be, still managed to make me feel like a larger-than-life being helping a little boy through a traumatic time in his life. And that’s pretty damn cool in a way only a videogame can pull off.

PSVR Thoughts

I couldn’t find that I had posted this. I found it lost in old drafts. Enjoy or enjoy again!

Objectively, the PSVR is an expensive add-on that feels like a beta test of its hardware and software. It is not a mature platform. It has few, if any, “killer apps”. Setting PSVR up optimally is not for the weak willed and is a frustrating experience most of the time. The screen resolution prevents games from ever looking like the trailers that Sony and other developers use for marketing. The headset, though not heavy, does get heavier over time and as you move. Plus, it does not breathe at all.

But subjectively? Subjectively, it has all been worth it.

Whenever someone asks me about my Playstation VR, I am always reticent to talk about owning one in detail. I struggle hiding my passion and enthusiasm, so I can protect the other party from buying into my hype. As a PSVR v1 user with a Playstation 4 Pro, my living room setup is ludicrous because of the lack of 4K passthrough. To take advantage of my PS4 Pro’s better graphics (you know, the whole point of the system) I had to either keep the PSVR disconnected all the time or find a third-party solution. Until I found that solution (a HDMI splitter), I never used the PSVR because it involved so many steps to get just right.

I had to:

  • Make sure I had the right HDMI cable(s) connected.
  • Pull out all the wiring associated with the PSVR headset.
  • Setup the camera for an optimal viewing angle.
  • Figure out which controllers I needed (two PS Moves, one dual shock, etc.) and make sure they were charged and ready to go.
  • Put on the PSVR helmet and make multiple adjustments to get the right viewing angle/comfort.
  • Get up and make further adjustments to the camera positioning because I never get it in the right location the first time.
  • Micro-adjust other specialized settings within the software (for example, height and distance adjustments), if needed.
  • Hope that the software or hardware doesn’t bug out for a variety of reasons.
  • Put everything up when done because no one wants a heap of wires and other expensive hardware laying around in front of a television.

Keep all these things in mind when I say to you that I love being a PSVR owner. While I could probably do better with more expensive setups or more expensive platforms, the PSVR just works (once you figure it out) and does so in the convenience of my living room where I have the most space. I could put my PC there too, but the thought of playing my normal PC games on my television horrifies me, as does moving a PC tower back and forth.

When it comes to PSVR games, I favor movement over immersion or multiplayer. I never played organized sports as a kid, but I enjoy a pick-up-game. In adulthood, it is a lot harder to get the sports-like activities in, so being able to do a virtual reality equivalent is fantastic. I love Knockout League for its Punch-Out!!!-like approach to VR boxing. More recently, I have been playing Beat Saber, which feels like a hybrid of dancing and air traffic control that works out similar arm muscles as tennis. Speaking of tennis, I have also had success playing Holoball though it is shallower than the other two games mentioned.

Even games like Superhot, which is not in anyway a sports game or sports-like game, adds a certain degree of physicality in VR. In that game, the enemies only move when you do, so dodging a bullet can mean maintaining a crouching position for a prolonged period as I survey the battlefield for my next move. That engages muscles that sitting never would.

Of course, VR isn’t just about swinging your arms like an idiot. I have also had a lot of playing old favorites like Rez or new favorites like Astro Bot Rescue Mission. Even Tetris benefits from VR in Tetris Effect, though I quickly got tired of wearing the headset for an admittedly minimal impact on the gameplay.

There are a lot of other experiences I am looking forward to having or may have forgotten about while writing this. Moss is a big standout there, but also the upcoming remake of Space Channel 5 to sate my inner Dreamcast fanboy. Many of these games are short or repetitive, but I do not view that as a negative. Rather than overflowing with weak gameplay bits like most open world RPGs, these smaller experiences are tighter and more focused on stronger gameplay.

Despite being a rough, unpolished experience, PSVR has sold me on the future of the platform (and VR gaming). Assuming it can’t be any worse to setup, I am almost definitely getting PSVR in whatever form it takes with the future Playstation 5. If they can add features like a wireless headset, better screen resolution, or a simpler setup, then I may even get it day one. As a gamer who doesn’t mind moving around, PSVR is a perfect match for me and something I frequently look forward to playing when I have the time.

The P in PSVR Stands for Passion

Objectively, the PSVR is an expensive add-on that feels like a beta test of its hardware and software. It is not a mature platform. It has few, if any, “killer apps”. Setting PSVR up optimally is not for the weak willed and is a frustrating experience most of the time. The screen resolution prevents games from ever looking like the trailers that Sony and other developers use for marketing. The headset, though not heavy, does get heavier over time and as you move. Plus, it does not breathe at all.

But subjectively? Subjectively, it has all been worth it.

Whenever someone asks me about my Playstation VR, I am always reticent to talk about owning one in detail. I struggle hiding my passion and enthusiasm, so I can protect the other party from buying into my hype. As a PSVR v1 user with a Playstation 4 Pro, my living room setup is ludicrous because of the lack of 4K passthrough. To take advantage of my PS4 Pro’s better graphics (you know, the whole point of the system) I had to either keep the PSVR disconnected all the time or find a third-party solution. Until I found that solution (a HDMI splitter), I never used the PSVR because it involved so many steps to get just right.

I had to:

  • Make sure I had the right HDMI cable(s) connected.
  • Pull out all the wiring associated with the PSVR headset.
  • Setup the camera for an optimal viewing angle.
  • Figure out which controllers I needed (two PS Moves, one dual shock, etc.) and make sure they were charged and ready to go.
  • Put on the PSVR helmet and make multiple adjustments to get the right viewing angle/comfort.
  • Get up and make further adjustments to the camera positioning because I never get it in the right location the first time.
  • Micro-adjust other specialized settings within the software (for example, height and distance adjustments), if needed.
  • Hope that the software or hardware doesn’t bug out for a variety of reasons.
  • Put everything up when done because no one wants a heap of wires and other expensive hardware laying around in front of a television.

Keep all these things in mind when I say to you that I love being a PSVR owner. While I could probably do better with more expensive setups or more expensive platforms, the PSVR just works (once you figure it out) and does so in the convenience of my living room where I have the most space. I could put my PC there too, but the thought of playing my normal PC games on my television horrifies me, as does moving a PC tower back and forth.

When it comes to PSVR games, I favor movement over immersion or multiplayer. I never played organized sports as a kid, but I enjoy a pick-up-game. In adulthood, it is a lot harder to get the sports-like activities in, so being able to do a virtual reality equivalent is fantastic. I love Knockout League for its Punch-Out!!!-like approach to VR boxing. More recently, I have been playing Beat Saber, which feels like a hybrid of dancing and air traffic control that works out similar arm muscles as tennis. Speaking of tennis, I have also had success playing Holoball though it is shallower than the other two games mentioned.

Even games like Superhot, which is not in anyway a sports game or sports-like game, adds a certain degree of physicality in VR. In that game, the enemies only move when you do, so dodging a bullet can mean maintaining a crouching position for a prolonged period as I survey the battlefield for my next move. That engages muscles that sitting never would.

Of course, VR isn’t just about swinging your arms like an idiot. I have also had a lot of playing old favorites like Rez or new favorites like Astro Bot Rescue Mission. Even Tetris benefits from VR in Tetris Effect, though I quickly got tired of wearing the headset for an admittedly minimal impact on the gameplay.

There are a lot of other experiences I am looking forward to having or may have forgotten about while writing this. Moss is a big standout there, but also the upcoming remake of Space Channel 5 to sate my inner Dreamcast fanboy. Many of these games are short or repetitive, but I do not view that as a negative. Rather than overflowing with weak gameplay bits like most open world RPGs, these smaller experiences are tighter and more focused on stronger gameplay.

Despite being a rough, unpolished experience, PSVR has sold me on the future of the platform (and VR gaming). Assuming it can’t be any worse to setup, I am almost definitely getting PSVR in whatever form it takes with the future Playstation 5. If they can add features like a wireless headset, better screen resolution, or a simpler setup, then I may even get it day one. As a gamer who doesn’t mind moving around, PSVR is a perfect match for me and something I frequently look forward to playing when I have the time.