VR can be enjoyed in nearly any space due to seated, standing and roomscale options. However, for the full immersive experience, a minimum of 2m by 2m is strongly recommended.
For many people looking to buy their first VR headset, the question of how much space is needed is a frequently raised concern. Whilst it depends heavily on what you wish to use the headset for, the standard recommended minimum play space is 2m by 2m (or 6.5ft by 6.5ft). With every game and headset, it will always be recommended that the more space the better, however, there are options suitable for all environments with games split into sitting, standing and room scale options, allowing for full immersive enjoyment in nearly any space.
In this article, we will delve into the differences between these three ways of playing to identify which would be best suited to your environment and what you wish to use the headset for, not to mention the safety features that make exploring a new dimension or playing crazy golf carefree and enjoyable.
Seated games and experiences
If you are short on space but are still craving the all-consuming immerse of a VR headset for gaming, then a seated option is perfect for your needs. Due to its static nature, this option also gives you the full freedom to use either a wireless headset like the Oculus Quest 2 or a ‘tethered’, PC-only VR headset like the HTC VIVE Pro 3. These games allow you to look straight ahead or on a swivel chair for a 360-degree look at your surroundings. The greatest part about this option is that it means that anyone can enjoy VR regardless of the space available, not to mention that those who may find it difficult to stand can find equal joy in the developing world of VR gaming.
Examples of seated games:
As one of the most popular VR games, I am very pleased to say that it is as enjoyable sitting down as when standing up. It is available on most headsets and platforms and is highly energetic and replayable.
Seated play is recommended for this charming and compelling story game which is award winning for its single-player VR action-adventure experience. This is a much more relaxed option for a late-night session in your favourite comfy chair.
Although it is only available on the Oculus rift and Oculus Quest, I would highly recommend this first-person shooter game with satisfying arcade-style gunplay. It transfers well to seated play and is one of the most visually stunning and thrilling shooter games available on VR.
These games would be my top suggestions but there are ample more games available on every headset that are made to be played sitting down or can be easily translated to a seated experience.
For those lacking enough space for roomscale there is also “Stationary mode,” a compact alternative designed for smaller spaces on the Oculus Quest 2. This is ideal if you do have some space but not enough to provide full mobility in a simulated environment. Instead of drawing your own guardian system used for roomscale games, stand alone establishes a small circle roughly an arms-length around the headset. This allows you to lean with your torso to interact with in-game objects using your touch controllers. You may only be standing in one spot, but you’ll likely be spinning and moving your arms above your head, so make sure you’re not near any low-hanging lighting fixtures. Headsets can differ in how you set up this mode, but you can be rest assured that it allows just enough space to enjoy pretty much every game and app applicable for your headset.
The majority of games available to play on VR can be played standing, particularly if you do have an area of space around you. The best games and experiences to enjoy standing up are the art creation apps. There are absolutely tons of wonderful apps that each offer something unique for a VR experience but here are a couple I would recommend to get you started:
Undoubtedly one of the best VR apps available, Open brush allows you to use a variety of brushes and tools to create stunning 3D pictures in a VR space. It currently gets 98% positive reviews on Steam and 4.5 stars on the Oculus store so is highly recommendable for standing play.
This hugely impressive VR painting app allows you to create visual masterpieces by oil painting on canvas. Providing a completely immersive experience, Vermillion is a great way to learn and develop the skills of painting. Without any prior experience, immense satisfaction can come for the artwork you create.
Room scale play
This is the best way to fully experience the all-consuming world of VR if you have the space available to you. Free-roaming VR games allow you to wander around digital game spaces in all directions. The more space you have, the better, and once again a 2m-by-2m square is strongly recommended as the minimum space requirement to get the most out of this mode.
How to prepare a room for room-scale VR
Rooms-scale play is inarguably the ultimate VR experience, and nothing can beat being able to explore your favourite game freely without worrying about your actual surroundings or being bound to a seat. However, it is the most demanding of VR play styles, not only in terms of the stresses on the VR hardware, but also in the space requirements needed, and physical exertion required.
For these reasons, you will want a clear, spacious area to play in. Make sure you push out of the way or move to another room any furniture that may encroach on your minimum 2 square meter space, or more if you have it.
Differing from standing or seated play is that you are not restricted to one spot and can move around freely which makes setting up the Guardian space parameters even more important. When you put on your headset, you will be prompted by its set-up system to point your VR controller toward the floor and ‘draw’ the boundaries of your chosen play space. By aiming your controller at the floor and pushing a trigger button to point out any room edges, walls, or obstacles, your headset is aware of where your boundaries are.
Most headsets will allow you to complete this process whilst wearing the VR headset by showing a video feed of your room on the internal screens via cameras mounted on the outside of the unit. Don’t forget to account for any overhead obstructions such as lights and remember to warn others around you to stay out of the play space to avoid any unexpected collisions.
If you’re using a headset that makes use of external tracking stations (sometimes referred to as base stations), like the HTC VIVE series or Valve Index, remember that you’ll want those units above head height in the two opposite corners of your play space, pointing slightly down towards the middle of that area. Your headsets set up software will ensure that you don’t encounter any blind spots within that area.
If you become really committed to living the VR dream, you may even consider setting up a dedicated VR room somewhere in your home if you have the space. You’d have no disturbances or furniture to move, and could invest in extension cables for tethered headsets, and even ceiling-mounted cable tidies to ensure you’re never tangled up in a trailing lead.
Though a park or garden may appear as the most appealing and spacious environment available for your use, VR headset manufacturers encourage you to stay inside when playing with their devices. Sadly, it can ruin your headset if the lenses come into contact with direct sunlight and is not covered under warranty. Moreover, the tracking systems can also be adversely affected by bright sunlight which can make playing in even familiar surroundings dangerous, especially if the Wi-Fi access is not fast or reliable enough. Additionally, there is the acute danger of serious personal injury by tripping on uneven ground or unexpected hazards occurring.
All good VR headsets will have some sort of “Guardian” system which are like digital walls which show you the boundaries of your play space. If you get too close, they’ll appear, warning that you’re approaching the edges of your play space and the furniture that may be around it.
Guardian Mode on the Oculus Quest 2:
Whilst you can use a recommended play space of 6.5ft by 6.5ft, for roomscale games, the more space the better. When using the Oculus Quest 2, the headset allows you to draw the boundaries of your play area using the Touch motion controllers, thereby setting up the Guardian boundary system. Guardian mode is what fully enhances the enjoyment of VR for me as you can fully interact with your chosen game knowing that you are safe from crashing into an unexpected concrete wall. If you have more space, it is highly recommendable that you leave an additional 2.5ft of space between your guardian boundary and any walls or other objects. This provides an additional protection layer for those intense sessions where the boundary slips from your mind entirely.
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