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Hands-on with Oculus' portable virtual reality arcade of classic games

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Virtual reality at the consumer level is often about environments as much as content. It's one thing to watch a movie, but the environment in which you do so is important. Do you want to watch a movie on your phone's screen, or in a movie theater? How about a movie theater on the moon?

Oculus Arcade is the company's attempt to change the way we play classic games by somewhat emulating the environment of a classic arcade. Each game is presented in an arcade cabinet, and the virtual buttons and joystick actually move when you play the game with your bluetooth controller.

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It's all very strange, but also pretty cool, to use a scientific term. I played Sonic the Hedgehog in an arcade cabinet. I spent some time with Defender and Streets of Rage. I was in a noisy room filled with developers and press talking and sharing demos, but once I put on the Gear VR and the headset it all faded away; I was by myself in this expansive place, surrounded by arcade machines.

Which is also the rub: You'll be given a "good amount" of free time to play each game, but you'll need to purchase each one individually to unlock unlimited play time. Oculus isn't releasing pricing on any of the games yet, and I'm not sure how much of a market there will be for a virtual reality version of Joust, housed in a virtual cabinet sitting in a virtual arcade.

Still, the ability to zone out and lose yourself in an isolation chamber that includes classic games is actually rather attractive. If they could simulate the background noise of a standard arcade and maybe the smell of stale cigarettes and the tangy undertones of cheap weed, those of us who grew up in this environment may feel right at home.