Back To The Virtual Future

image source: VR Source

We live in a brave new world of virtual reality and ‘real’ 3D experiences. The race for full-immersion is on, with big money invested in tech to transport you into a virtual world. It seems some people won’t rest until every home has access to a Star Trek style holodeck. In these heady days of VR pioneering, it’s easy to forget that the seeds were planted long ago. This post looks at early appearances of VR in popular culture that inspired the current gold rush.

Simulated reality is a very powerful idea. It strikes at the heart of the human experience and touches on existential questions about our nature. I’m not suggesting Oculus Rift is going to shed new philosophical light on the writings of Descartes, but it certainly highlights a longstanding human desire to shape our own reality.

Early science fiction novels played with the idea of virtual reality from as early as 1941. Robert A Heinlen’s book ‘They’ tells of a man confined to a mental institution because he believes he is one of the only real people alive and that the rest of the universe has been created by a few others to deceive him. This solipsistic work sets the tone for many early virtual realities. Most are generally dystopian in nature and play heavily on people’s fears of being unable to trust their own senses and the people around them. This theme reoccurs frequently in popular culture.

Phillip K. Dick, took a slightly different tack. In his 1953 novel “The Trouble with Bubbles” we first see the idea of humans creating virtual worlds for others to experience. It is an interesting concept with relevance to the creators of today’s VR experiences. The book fully explores the morality of having total control over the lives of others.

image source: DailyTech

It’s not just books that play with virtual reality. TV and films explore the trope in great detail. One of the first references to VR on TV was, of course, Star Trek. In 1974, long before Captain Picard was flouncing around the holodeck, the crew of the Enterprise has an encounter with an unusual cloud that affects their computer. The ship starts to play practical jokes; including turning the recreation room into a dangerous virtual reality area that almost kills the unfortunates who get stuck there. A far cry from the holodeck’s mainly benign incarnation in Star Trek: The Next Generation.

image source: Front Effects

Tron (1982) is one of the first examples of close human computer interaction in film and of course borrows heavily from computer games for its action scenes. Again, it is a very twisted form of reality with the main character trapped in a computerized world, fighting against the very system he programmed. The VR on display is highly advanced, with full body immersion and the very real possibility of death.

Other films like Lawnmower Man (1992) and Johnny Mnemonic (1995) come closer to the current day experience with headsets and body suits that relay information between user and applications. The Matrix (1999) has a connection straight to the brain that delivers an almost fool-proof illusion of reality. The first two have technology that is either within our grasp or very close, while the direct brain plug of the Matrix is not as far away as you might think. Advances in direct neuro controls for things like prosthetic limbs shows our understanding of the brain is expanding at a rapid rate.

You can bet that the brains behind the current crop of VR are aware of the fiction behind the science. Science fiction has always influenced technology, inviting scientists and engineers to turn the imagination of writers into reality. With the amount of money being invested in the new generation of VR, it’s only a matter of time before more outlandish ideas become reality. At the current pace, we will likely see highly convincing virtual reality with haptic feedback and all senses engaged within our lifetimes.
It is strange that something that is clearly a great fantasy for many people is inspired by popular culture that generally warns of the dangers of the technology. Let’s just hope that science fiction has only predicted the emergence of the tech and not its dystopian themes.
Andy Trowers is a game design consultant, freelance ne’er-do-well and staff writer for


Insert Coin To Play: Geeky Coins And Tokens

coinslot2Image source: CSA

We all love having a pocket full of coins and tokens to feed our arcade addiction, but you may be reluctant to part with these treasures.

Club Nintendo Commemorative Coins:
The Year Of Luigi & Super Mario Bros. 25th Anniversary
luigi mario brosImage source: Nintendo Life & Nintendo Life Forums

Nintendo Power 100th Issue Commemorative Coins
NP100Image source: Ripten

1982 World’s Fair Arcade Tokens
1982 WF tokensImage source: Video Games Memorabilia Museum (Pac-ManDonkey KongMs Pac-Man)

SegaWorld Sydney Token
SegaWorld tokenImage source: Video Games Memorabilia Museum

Time-Out Arcade Tokens
timeoutImage source: Dork Dimension

Chuck E. Cheese Arcade Tokens
chuckecheeseImage source: Dork Dimension

Assorted Arcade Tokens
tokensImage source: Classic Plastic

gametokensImage source: Boing Boing

Pikachu Coin For The Polynesian Nation Of Niue
pikachu coinImage source: Numista

Doctor Who Coins By The Perth Mint Australia
the doctors

monsters TARDIS

Batman & Superman Coins
batman and supermanImage source: Royal Canadian Mint & Royal Canadian Mint

Star Trek Coins For Island Of Tuvalu
star-trek-coinsImage source: The Perth Mint via Geekologie

Star Wars Coins For The Polynesian Nation Of Niue
star wars coinsImage source: New Zealand Mint via Geekologie

World Of Warcraft Coinswow coinsImage source: Amazon (Alliance & Horde)

Coin Paintings by Andre Levy
painted coins - combinedImage source: Tales You Lose via Toxel


msausretrogamerMs. ausretrogamer
Editor and Researcher at ausretrogamer – The Australian Retro Gamer E-Zine. Lover of science fiction, fashion, books, movies and TV. Player of games, old and new.

Follow Ms. ausretrogamer on Twitter



Pinball Antics at Timezone

Metallica_titleI am a persistent type of gamer, especially when it comes to pinball and when there is a prize at stake. I just wish I was persistent like this when playing RPG or adventure games *sigh* (Ed: not this again!).

In a previous post I mentioned that I was frequenting Timezone to set a high-score on the designated tournament pinball machine (Star Trek Pro) to book my place for The Australian Timezone Supanova Pinball Championship. Well, I returned to Timezone Forest Hill only to find that the Star Trek Pro table was out of action! I didn’t dwell on my disappointment for too long, so I just hightailed it to another Timezone to flip some balls of steel.

Nooooooo! Time to leave Timezone Forest Hill…..

Next stop, Timezone Chadstone! Instead of Star Trek Pro, the tournament table here was Metallica. My first impressions of the machine were quite negative, but after a few plays, I was hooked – love the music! With some positive encouragement from Ms. ausretrogamer, I was able to get my name on the tournament qualification high-score table, albeit in 2nd place.

With only a few weeks to go till the qualification period ends (March 29), I will be back to feed the snake and build the voltage to give Sparky a good charge. Long live pinball!

Hello me pretties

She is a beauty

Damn! That’s a massive high-score!

Metallica! Let’s get this baby started!

Getting into some flippin rhythm 

Fill up that fuel tank! You don’t wanna run out of gas!

Feed the snake, he’s very hungry!

Ms Ausretrogamer getting some flipping action, while I rest my hands

Studying the instructions – gotta get that big score!

Sparky is gonna get some electric action

Finally, I am on the scoreboard. Gotta get that number 1 spot!

Hot Wheels Battle: Star Trek VS Star Wars

HotWheels_SWvsSTI may have been a Matchbox fan in my younger years, but it’s all about Hot Wheels right now! Starting with the Atari NostalgicsHot Wheels (well, Mattel) have definitely piqued my interest in their little cars.

It seems that Hot Wheels have jumped on the pop culture bandwagon and are hurtling down to your local toy store. Not only have Hot Wheels fused their cool toy cars with one sci-fi cult classic, Star Trek, but they have given us the equivalent of a boxing one-two sucker punch by also giving us the Star Wars collection(s).

Considering it is a new year, and in the spirit of giving (thank you Ms. ausretrogamer), I wasn’t going to deny myself either of these collections. Star Trek or Star Wars – let the battle for the sci-fi universe begin!

The Star Trek collection

Star Trek Collection explained

Oooooo, Spock!

The Star Wars Hot Wheels gang!
Looking good Mr Skywalker

Join the dark side of the Hot Wheels force!
The Battle Of The Hot Wheels Universe!

Vader is all over Bones!