I play an Oculus Rift demo that simulates death by beheading (Spoiler: it’s deeply disturbing)
The blade going through your neck sounds like someone dropping a wet steak. Your view falls forward, and begins to roll. The head tracking is turned off. “You just got what’s coming to ya!” an angry voice shouts. Your eyes close, and you die. There doesn’t seem to be a button to reset the game.
I’ve played through a variety of games and tech demos for the Oculus Rift, but Disunion, an experience in which you are beheaded by guillotine in a first person view, is by far the most disturbing. The characters in the game look like cardboard cut outs, and there is no blood. You don’t actually see your body. But you do get a chance to feel, in some small way, what it’s like to die.
It feels like a snuff film, except for that fact that you’re both the victim and the voyeur. You’re supposed to… what? Enjoy the sight of your own death? During the video of the creators demoing the game you see people hitting the back of the “victim’s” neck in time with the blade. It already feels too real, I can’t imagine any actual physical sensations coinciding with the moment where your head leaves your body. My neck already feels strange after playing four or five times.
You take the Rift off your head, and it’s odd to feel pleasantly surprised to be still connected to your body. Everything works. It was just a game.
If you want to double-down on the oddity of the whole thing you can turn around and look up to watch the blade come down, before your view rolls with your decapitated head. Put a wooden block on the ground and kneel over it while wearing the Rift. You can role-play your own execution with as much verisimilitude as you’d like. Why you’d want this to feel more real is beyond me, but that is certainly an option.
I’ve spent the past few weeks inside virtual reality doing things I have never dreamed I’d get a chance to do in real life. I’ve been in space. I’ve driven all sorts of interesting vehicles. I suppose it was only a short amount of time before a team wanted to show us how it would feel to die. You don’t fail at a task before losing your head, being killed is the entire point of the game. This was an interesting experiment, and I’m glad I was given a chance to try it, but it’s nothing I want to go through again.
If you have an Oculus Rift dev kit, you can try it for yourself. It's not fun.