Who we spoke to
  • 7 screened VR users
  • Owning VR headsets such as Oculus Quest 2, HTC Vive, PS 4 VR, Destek
  • 20 - 37 years (GenZ and Millennials)
  • Residents of New York City
  • Engagement between June - July 2021
Topics we focused on
  1. Motivations for playing VR
  2. Current VR-playing "journey"
  3. Challenges unique to VR in a city context
  4. Aspirations around better VR experiences
  5. Social life of VR users
Questions we asked
1. What makes people play VR at home?

Analysis:

The following are the three key motivations for VR users to play VR at home:

  1. To get their friends together, hang out and have memorable experiences
  2. Constantly improve their performance and enhance their own individual experience
  3. Get away from their daily routine and escape to a whole new virtual world for a brief period of time

Primary data:

“If a friend says ‘We're going to come over’, I ask them if they want to play VR, because usually that's a big hangout point for my friends.” - Kayleigh, 34 years old, Sony Playstation 4 VR owner.
“You can measure your progress and see the calories that you burned and you know — are you getting more proficient or less proficient.” - Matt, 28 years old, HTC Vive owner.
“You put this thing on your head and you’re off to a fantasy world, be whoever you want to be, do what you only dreamed of and make it your own.” - Jason, 34 years old, doesn't own a VR headset.
2. Who influences or what triggers the decision to play VR?

Analysis:

For most VR users, the decision to play VR at home is spontaneous, made on the spur-of-the-moment. These play sessions are mostly solo, often at the end of the day or on a particularly tiring or stressful day. VR users rarely plan ahead or schedule a session (unless playing involves meeting up with friends or beating / acing a new or challenging game).

Primary data:

"If I have nothing better to do, I know I'm keeping up with my classes and stuff, I'll just go downstairs because my room is too small to play VR. So I'll just go downstairs, and I'll put on the headset, and I'll just start playing games. It's really spontaneous, it's not like something triggers me to play VR." - Neel, 20 years old, Oculus Quest 2 owner.
"Generally, the reason I play is, I think just because I integrated it into my everyday life, and I don't really plan out to do it. I don't actually remember planning, a single time, unless, my friends are getting on or something like that. And we're trying to decide when to get on. That's different. But if I'm by myself, I never explicitly plan. I sort of just walk in, I see my headset there and I think to myself, 'Yeah, why not? Let's do it'. And I don't regret it. I always have a good time." - Eric, 21 years old, Oculus Quest 2 owner.
"I just (decide to) play on the spot unless I'm planning it with friends, where we go to a VR arcade. If it's at home, I'll be sitting at work or something and then I'll look at my lunch breaks coming up and I'm like, 'Oh, I could do that on my break. Or I could do that after work today'. So for the most part, it's spur of the moment, but I never planned like, 'Oh, looking at my calendar next Tuesday'. I'll just play whenever I want to." - Kayleigh, 34 years old, Sony Playstation 4 VR owner.
3. Are VR users interested in playing with friends?

Analysis:

Most friends of VR users do not have their own VR headset, or are not into VR. As a result, VR users mostly play alone or with others online. Most VR users would like to play with their friends though. How they play VR, i.e. alone, with others online, or together at home - was a function of whether or not the friends were into VR or had their own VR headset.

Primary data:

4. What does a VR set up at home look like?

Analysis:

Most VR users have messy set ups at home because they are working with limited space to store and play VR. Some VR users have to move things around to make space, others make do within their spaces, often compromising on their VR experience or hurting themselves whilst playing.

Primary data:

"I push the chair under my desk, I remove everything and move as much things as possible to get a big amount of space." - Eric, 21 years old, Oculus Quest 2 owner.
"I had to make sure that they were far away enough from the person that they wouldn't bump into them or trip over them or anything."- Nadeem, 28 years old, Sony Playstation 4 VR owner.
"When I'm done, I plug in everything. I plug in my controllers to charge. I sanitise my headset. I put everything away. I try to organise everything as best as I can. Because there's a lot of wires." - Kayleigh, 34 years old, Sony Playstation 4 VR owner.

5. When and how do they play VR at home?

Analysis:

VR users who seek opportunities to spend time with friends play on a weekend, while hanging out with friends or when out-of-town friends are visiting. VR users who play to seek personal excellence play alone at home (or maybe with friends online) — typically at the end of the day, at night when they would not be disturbed, at the end of a work day spent sitting at one place without exercise or breaks, or when they have a game they haven’t finished or level they haven’t completed. VR users who seek to escape from reality play alone (or with friends). They would play on a particularly stressful or tiring day, if they’re looking to meet new people online or when they’re looking for a break in the middle of work.

Primary data:

"So when I'm playing with someone, if I have a friend over and we play, if I have a friend who says 'We're going to come over', I ask them if they want to play VR, because usually that's a big hangout point for my friends as they really want to play it because they've never done it before, if they don't have one. So we'll plan to play and I let them play as long as they want. I show them all the games that I have. I'm like, you can play as long as you want. I totally don't mind. I'll watch and I'll get videos if you want videos." - Kayleigh, 34 years old, Sony Playstation 4 VR owner.
"I mostly play at night. I try not to waste daylight because I'm usually either in class or I'm going out with my friends or like living my life basically. So I'd noticed when I play my games, and basically, if I have nothing better to do, I know I'm keeping up with my classes and stuff. I'll go downstairs, I'll put on the headset, and I'll just start playing games." - Neel, 20 years old, Oculus Quest 2 owner.
"You put this headpiece gear on and travel to whatever place you want in your mind. For the moment a fantasy one, but it is a world where you could get away from some people get away from it for hours. I'm one of them. It's just amazing that you're able to to do things that you want to do be how you want to be, basically, who you want to be, that you can be here. Overall it's just an amazing experience to be able to be something that you could you can only dream to be in the real world. In a VR world, you could do that plus so much more." - Jason, 34 years old, doesn't own a VR headset.
6. What kind of content do VR users engage with?

Analysis:

Most VR players play single-player games because most of their friends don't have VR and/or there aren't enough multiplayer VR games. VR users also seem to engage with active exercise or workout-based games. Other popular categories include first-person shooter, action and adventure.

Primary data:

"It's hard to convince friends to play because we're just playing the same game over and over. So for the most part, I just play by myself." - Neel, 20 years old, Oculus Quest 2 owner.
"I played the escape room for Assassin's Creed with friends. That was a lot of fun. We did Arizona Sunshine where you're killing zombies. I've done snowball fights. There's what is called Splat or Splatter, it's painful. And it depends on the friends that I'm with. So if I'm with like a bunch of my guy friends, we'll do more of the first-person shooter stuff, obviously. But if I'm with my girlfriends, we will play more adventure games or more story-based games." - Kayleigh, 34 years old, Sony Playstation 4 VR owner.
"I think it's called The Climb, that was a rock climbing game. That game was really fun at first, it's like you're climbing on a cliff. And there's really nice views and everything. But over time, that gets repetitive because you're just going like this (gestures with arms). Another popular game I tried was Beat Saber, that felt really satisfying, when you start slashing the blocks and everything, but that also gets repetitive. And then at a certain point, the game just becomes really hard." - Neel, 20 years old, Oculus Quest 2 owner.
7. What associations do VR users make between playing VR and fitness?

Analysis:

Some VR users weren't quite excited at the idea of going over to a gym, although they did consider staying fit very important. VR users motivated by personal excellence seemed to engage with VR as a form of exercise or workout — especially at the end of a long hard day at work. Active fitness-based games like boxing, rock climbing and sword fighting were popular with such users — a fun alternative to running on a treadmill or lifting weights. These games, albeit limited, allowed them the opportunity to get active and stay fit without having to step out of the house or go to the gym — an option they considered especially attractive during the COVID-19 pandemic and the lockdown that saw people spending many more hours indoors without the option of stepping out to socialise. Some were hopeful enough to wait for future VR tech to become more affordable and accessible in order to experience more immersive fitness though VR.

Primary data:

"Having the exercise experience, is really appealing to me, because I try to stay fit. I think it's an important thing, just to be physically fit. I feel better when I'm exercising on a regular basis and I sleep better. But the problem is always I don't want to go to the gym and run for an hour or lift weights. I find that to be very boring. So having a video game, maybe having fitness designed around a video game was a lot more engaging to me because I love games, I want to stay fit. This seems like the best of the best of both worlds." - Matt, 28 years old, HTC Vive owner.
"If I was playing a boxing game, I would probably shower (after) cuz I'm sweating my ass off. That's the only game that really makes me (sweat) like it's a real workout. But, yeah, that's really, I mean, I just go back to whatever I was doing. I mean, if it's a workout (game), then it's as if I worked out, you know, so that's, that's great. Like I said, the boxing game is the only game that really is like a workout that I have. There are other games, but I don't have it." - Adam, 37 years old, Oculus Quest 2 owner.
"Oh, well, if you could somehow turn that (VR) into a game or something like that, where you pick up a dumbbell or do some kind of stretches. I would be very interested in that. Because I remember they had some stuff like that in the Wii and I enjoyed that a lot. So, I think even though they didn't have any of the VR, right, it's just, I think for me, that's a big part of it. So I really enjoy it. Yeah." - Nadeem, 28 years old, Sony Playstation 4 VR owner.
"Well, this is sort of like, something I dream about. But I know it's not obtainable right now, because it's very expensive. But another thing that I did try with virtual reality is, I don't remember what it's called exactly, but essentially, you have shoes that you put on, and you can actually run in place. And even though you're running in place, in the game, you're playing, you're actually running because it tracks your feet. So I think, the most ideal way, the coolest thing that I think we're just not top, it would be a full by immersion, not just your hands and head. But I think that's something that'll, either right now is like too expensive, and not really, really good for consumers just because of how expensive it is. And also, we're not there technologically yet. So I'm willing to wait for it. But that would, I think, be the most ideal way to play that would be basically like the Matrix - Ready Player One type of deal full body immersion, that's the future. That's the coolest thing ever. But we're not there yet." - Eric, 21 years old, Oculus Quest 2 owner.
8. What do VR users like to do for fun other than VR?

Analysis:

Some VR users prefer to spend time on their own — they would step out of the house and go cycling or walking. If weather prohibits stepping out, they may stay indoors and read a book. Those who prefer company would spend time with friends — at a park, for a meal or drinks, watch a movie or simply hang out.

Primary data:

"For weekdays, I tend to just play video games and go rock climbing and listen to music, maybe read and cook. But really, I become very much a homebody during the pandemic, as of everyone forcefully. But even now that things are opening up, I'm still like, inclined to spend a lot of time at home during the weekdays. And then the weekends are when I go out." - Matt, 28 years old, HTC Vive owner.
"I like to go cycling. If it's raining outside, there's not much I can do outside. Like, I'll just go into VR, because I know that's a good way to stay moving." - Neel, 20 years old, Oculus Quest 2 owner.
"I would basically take little walks here and there. Or, I'll be on my social media or check my emails." - Luke, 37 years old, Desktek owner.
"Sometimes we'll hit Groupon because Groupon has good prices on things. And Groupon usually has something for VR arcade. But if the VR arcade is sold out or there's no Groupon, we'll still see what's there on Groupon. And if everything is way too much money, we'll just go to a park and hang out or go to Korea Town and get drinks or something." - Kayleigh, 34 years old, Sony Playstation 4 VR owner.
"We hang out, we go to Times Square, it's a big tourist hotspot area, so we go down and we shoot videos and we hang out and have a good time. We don't just play, we do play a lot, but we also hang out and have fun. We go to the movies and this is why I say that my gaming community sees more of me than my non-gaming community." - Jason, 34 years old, doesn't own a VR headset.
9. What's the biggest challenge playing VR in NYC?

Analysis:

The top challenge VR users face is the lack of space — considered synonymous with New York City. The challenge of space is largely around actual square footage and not about reorganising furniture as much.

Primary data:

"In a home setting, that's (space is) big, because for me, I'm not gonna always have my VR set on display, because I don't have a big space. In my room, I do have a big enough space to use it when I want to use it, but to keep it there hooked up, I don't have that privilege. I will have to move stuff away for the time being when I want to play then I have to move that again." - Jason, 34 years old, doesn't own a VR headset.
"In terms of importance, it's not really so much rearranging my space to make room for VR, it's more just having the space, I feel like once I set it up, I intentionally set it up in a way so that I don't have to rearrange, like it's a permanent fixture in my apartment. So, space is a consideration, but it's less so rearranging it, it's more just having it." - Nadeem, 28 years old, Sony Playstation 4 VR owner.
"I don't have quite as much space in New York that I had in Boston." - Matt, 28 years old, HTC Vive owner.
10. What challenges do VR users face with VR headsets, accessories or tech?

Analysis:

Limitations of content, headsets and accessories is an overarching challenge — it impacted how VR users chose to play, with whom and how frequently. Whilst VR users acknowledged the nascent and constantly evolving nature of VR tech, they did see their experience immensely impacted by the limitations of their VR gear — some headset-specific, others more generic. VR users struggle with limitations of their headsets, including wires, battery, comfort, etc.

Along the same lines, VR users also saw a challenge in not having enough accessories or controllers — something they believe is important to their VR experience. Not having enough accessories or gameplay-specific controllers also restricts their VR playing experience.

Primary data:

11. Do VR users face any challenges with available VR content and games?

Analysis:

When it comes to content, VR users mostly felt limited. They either did not find enough multiplayer games that they could play with others, or very few to choose from. They also felt most games had them doing the same things slightly differently. Lack of enough multiplayer games or repetitiveness of available games prompted VR users to play alone, not play as often as they used to or choose another activity altogether.

Primary data:

12. How do VR users get around their challenges at home?

Analysis:

The easiest way to get around the problem of space is to play VR alone. Playing alone is the path of least resistance — it takes away potential hassles of scheduling, coordinating a time, teaching friends how to play — with the option of playing with friends / strangers online. Another workaround at home is to do something else by themselves. When physical space is an issue, VR users are more likely to do another activity by themselves.

Primary data:

"It really takes a solid 20 minutes, at least, to get your bearings and know how to how to use it. And, that's not necessarily that fun to just watch three people in a row, learn how to use VR. So, if it's their first time, if it's a good friend, obviously, I want them to experience that, but I don't really have an incentive to bring it out in a party and be like, hey, let's all watch you learn how to do this." - Adam, 37 years old, Oculus Quest 2 owner.
"I wouldn't play with my friends more often, there's not a lot of games that we can really play well together that are fun. And because of that, it's hard to convince them to play it because we're just playing the same game over and over. So for the most part, I still just play by myself." - Neel, 20 years old, Oculus Quest 2 owner.
"I don't actually remember planning, like a single time, unless, my friends are getting on or something like that. But if I'm by myself, I just walk in, I see my head set there and I think to myself, Yeah, why not? Let's do it. And I don't regret it. You know, I always have a good time." - Eric, 21 years old, Oculus Quest 2 owner.
13. What do VR users do when they don't have the space to have friends over?

Analysis:

If space is a constraint for the purpose of socialising, then VR is dropped for another social activity like simply hanging out, watching a movie or grabbing a meal with friends.

Primary data:

"I met with a friend of mine virtually after he finally moved to a new apartment. We played some poker last Monday for around two hours." - Eric, 21 years old, Oculus Quest 2 owner.
"I went to a BBQ at one friend’s house. My boyfriend came over for a few days." - Kayleigh, 28 years old, Sony Playstation 4 VR owner.
"I went to the beach with my friends yesterday." - Nadeem, 28 years old, Sony Playstation 4 VR owner.

14. Where does playing VR feature during a typical week?

Analysis:

On a weekday, when looking to unwind, VR users are most likely to do another activity by themselves, either at home or outdoors. Alternatively, they are likely to play VR at home or at a friend’s home. 

On weekends, they are equally likely to do an activity by themselves, at home or outdoors, or hang out socially with friends. Playing VR at home is then only the next option.

Primary data:

15. What do VR users wish was different in their VR experience?

Analysis:

Most VR users crave more space and the ability to play with friends, but towards different outcomes — for a more social experience or for more immersion. More space is an implicit expectation, not a standalone desire but a ‘must-have'. VR users seek more space so that they could play with a bunch of friends more often without having to play online or rearrange their space or so that they don't hurt themselves whilst playing more immersive games. VR users also wish for more friends to have VR and more multiplayer content so they could get together and experience multiplayer VR or so they could have more immersive shared VR experiences.

Primary data:

"I always would try to set up the biggest space possible for VR games, you can play sitting down, but it's not the same experience, like I want to be able to move around and like have a big standing area. And that is heavily restricted. Just because I have a smaller apartment." - Matt, 28 years old, HTC Vive owner.
"That's (space is) a massive thing. Because if my friends have, or even if I did have two headsets for my friends, to play in my apartment there is not enough space in my Brooklyn apartment for us to play together." - Eric, 21 years old, Oculus Quest 2 owner.
"Bonding with your friends is kind of like the big deal of this (VR). It's more than just, you know, playing a board game with your friends, which is fun, but playing VR with a bunch of your friends, especially ones that probably can't afford a VR headset, this is probably the next best thing to having all of your friends on a VR headset." - Kayleigh, 34 years old, Sony Playstation 4 VR owner.
"Immersion into a virtual world with your friends, that one's fine, the virtual worlds part, you go somewhere else. But that's a very broad spectrum. That could be what you're doing, maybe not with friends, but it's immersion into a virtual world." - Jason, 34 years old, doesn't own a VR headset.
"I do wish that more of my friends owned a VR headset, because most of my friends don't have it. So, if you want to play with them, or if you want to show them at least what it is, then you can bring them to some place like that (VR parlour). That's really cool for people who just want to have maybe a party. I'm sure, if I had a few friends going over, I wouldn't mind having a birthday party or just stopping by there. I think as a kind of celebration type thing." - Nadeem, 28 years old, Sony Playstation 4 VR owner.
* We use pseudonyms to protect participant identities.
Methodology
Our process is 100% digitally driven. We connect with audiences online and use hybrid methods (qualitative and quantitative) to uncover their lived experiences. Learn more about our methodology here.
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