A developer experimenting with virtual reality and hand-tracking technology has built a mod for Grand Theft Auto 5 that gives the game an uncomfortable level of immersion.
"I'm really not sure about this." the mod's creator Joseph Delgado wrote in the Tumblr post where he posted the video. "I feel horrible about making this. You actually feel guilty. My mouth dropped the first time I shot someone in my GTA: V VR setup."
There's no doubt, even from just watching the looping GIF Delgado posted, that this set-up lends GTA an uncomfortable level of realism.
"I think guilt is a really interesting topic for VR," Delgado told me in an email. "We're definitely trained as humans to have this sort of reaction to things in real life, and VR is getting better every day. I'd say that your average, good person would have the same reaction the first few times they use something like this. I expect some really, really moving stuff to come out of VR.
"I think we're desensitised to violence in gaming," he continues. "First-person shooters bring you close to the violence, but having to laboriously move your hand down to shoot someone on the floor, physically walk to them, pull the trigger, and hear all the noises that come with it... It's definitely a much more visceral experience."
I pointed out that since posting his clip, Delgado's mod has been much discussed on Reddit and not everyone sees it as something horrifying. Some are very excited by it. " I think it's exciting too, not just horrifying!" Delgado says. "A game like GTA: V is full of possibilities and a great storyline, so having VR support just opens more doors for immersive experiences. It's just that being devious in a sandbox game, a game where you could have just as much fun riding your bike down the streets of Los Santos, makes you question if you're really not sadistic."
For now the mod is very much in its early days, Delgado tells me, "I actually started working on the mod just two days ago. I was excited to show it off to my friends, so I made a short clip as soon as I could." The mod is currently setup with his Oculus Rift and the Razer Hydra. Once he gets "some more development time and features in there", he plans to release it publicly. "The big thing missing right now is a way to drive cars intuitively. I want to make sure it's a reasonably robust experience that can work through the majority of the singleplayer campaign before I put anything out there."
It is a fascinating mod and definitely something we'll start seeing more of as the development tools for this hardware get into people's hands. But, fuck, that's not an easy video clip to watch.