It’s easy to feel lonely on holidays. Maybe it’s because they’re some of the few times of the year where the walls are expected to come down — and even with all the consumerism — we spend quality time with other people. Or maybe because it’s always easy to feel lonely in The New Normal.
Valentine’s Day can be particularly hard, especially if you’re already in a long-distance relationship, but there are ways to connect remotely that don’t have to look like a buggy FaceTime call or a Zoom meeting with a 45-minute cap.
VR provides the opportunity to engage in what I consider to be one of the most important kinds of quality time you can spend with the people you love: loosely structured casual conversation. Now there’s nothing casual about a VR headset like the Quest 2, and I’m loathed to push it as some kind of solution, what with wild speculation on the “metaverse” frothing in the background and plenty of diehard VR users valuing their in-person hangs just as much as their virtual ones.
But there’s a certain je ne sais quoi to VR “presence.” Being someplace with someone else, even if it’s virtual, and having an activity that can take your mind off things is one of the fastest ways to have a good conversation.
If you have a partner who’s willing to be experimental and deal with some extra setup, these VR apps and experiences could be great for your Valentine’s Day or your next remote date.
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For an awkward date night classic
There’s nothing more classic than a mini-golf date, and the light focus the best version of golf requires (there, I said it) means you can spend plenty of time catching up or getting to know your virtual date. If fitness is a game-changing app for virtual reality — as some have suggested — I’d argue Walkabout Mini-Golf is the reason you keep the headset after you get tired of working out.
Walkabout is a barebones experience, occasionally to a fault, but it does a great job of getting you and your date in a series of exciting themed courses quickly, and then getting out of the way so you can putt and chat your virtual butts off. As a bonus, there are dozens of hidden golf balls to find across the various courses, so you’ll unlock more customization options as you play.
I’m more than a little hesitant to recommend a complex VR tabletop roleplaying game for date night, but Demeo’s quirks are also what might make it a fun puzzle to unravel with your significant other. Or at least test your patience.
Demeo currently comes with three different campaigns to work through using the game’s turn-based card battles. Demeo’s difficult dungeons are a great place to catch up (you’re going to want to scrutinize your moves carefully) but also work with your date. There’s no way you’ll get through it without each other, which makes it a natural test of collaboration and cool-headedness, whether you’re a wizard or knight.
For a labor-intensive Netflix and chill
Besides being one of the few places you can regularly watch major sporting events like the just-passed Super Bowl LVI and Hollywood blockbusters in VR, Bigscreen also works like your own private living room. Screenshare streaming services from your PC, tap into your local media server, or just surf the app’s pre-existing TV streaming rooms with your significant other.
It’s not as easy as watching Netflix in the same room, sure, but vegging out together in VR does have a similar charm once you get into it.
For a DIY romantic getaway
Meta’s Horizon Worlds is a bit like VR training wheels. From a distance, it looks like the kind of expansive possibility space fictional VR worlds like The Oasis from Ready Player One or the Metaverse from Snow Crash call to mind, but in reality, it’s more buttoned-up (and just as corporate-controlled as Snow Crash feared).
Users have created some super interesting worlds to visit, but the real treat of Horizon Worlds might be creating something custom for just you and your loved one to hang out in. Meta’s tools make that surprisingly easy, and since even the building experience is multiplayer, you can spend some quality time building your romantic hideaway together.
For visiting your childhood homes
Essentially a multiplayer Google Street View with access to the Wikipedia articles of the locations you visit, Wander isn’t the best experience to choose if you want to feel embodied together in the same place. What it does offer is a casual opportunity for you and your date to browse locations, and “travel” in a low-stakes way, in a time when that’s mostly still discouraged. Visit the pyramids at Giza or your own childhood home. You’re bound to see something interesting.