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Losing My VRginity to: Dactyl Nightmare

Every gamer has their firsts: that first time with a control pad, first time with an analog stick, first Super Mario experience, first online multiplayer addiction. The list is endless. However, there’s one ‘first’ that is unshakably modern. An experience unlike any other that will stay with you as we move into a new era for interactive entertainment: your first time virtual reality (VR).

In this new regular series VRFocus will be inviting members of the community to regale us with tales of their first VR experiences. This week we play host to Matt Sonic, an entrepreneur from San Francisco who has created a software alternative to the prolonged distribution network for Oculus Rift demos and videogame titles: VirtualReality.io. VRFocus will bring you more on VirtualReality.io in the very near future, but for now we will share in the road that lead Sonic to his VR destination:


“My first VR experience was inside a dirty laser tag arena called LaserPlace. While vastly inferior to other laser tag establishments in the area, LaserPlace still drew a consistent audience of 10-15 year-olds. Its premiere offering was laser tag couched in a paper-thin plot about saving the world from aliens. However, LaserPlace also had a decent arcade. By 1994, arcades were almost completely wiped out. So, naturally, this shitty establishment was extremely precious to my preteen nerd self.

One day, LaserPlace put up posters announcing that a new “virtual reality” game would be in town for a few days next month. To me, this was better than the circus and a monster truck rally combined. When the time came, I arrived early to discover a line out the door. I waited and waited and watched the kids leaving LaserPlace to see their reactions. Every one of them was beaming. I hated them for being in front me, but I was happy that they were leaving.

As I got to the front of the line, I saw it. In a rad 1990’s Hypercolor font it announced itself: Dactyl Nightmare. It looked like something out of Beyond 2000: two rings to hold you and a friend inside the computer generated world, a floating controller, and a helmet that engulfed your skull.

The attendant strapped me in, put on the helmet, and within a few seconds I was battling for my life inside a checkerboard dreamland. It changed me. It was a taste of things to come. When I look back on that day, I see a clear line to where I am now, and to where I know we’re going.”


Matt Sonic is the founder of VirtualReality.io. VirtualReality.io is Oculus Rift software that connects you to other VR apps, without having to configure anything or take off your Rift. It allows you to browse, download, and launch VR apps all inside of a VR world.

1 comment
  1. I actually remember seeing that game also! Similar situation/surroundings but this one was in a shady arcade in Ohio! They were overcharging for a VR session in Dactyl Nightmare so my parents, always strapped for cash, refused to pay. Imagine how disappointed I was.
    I still spent about an hour hovering around the console asking questions to the attendant and attempting to get a free game.
    Great nostalgia. Thanks for sharing Matt.

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