Creeping down the hallway, trying desperately not to faint out of fear, Fiona 'CyborgAngel' Smith tries to decide which door she should go through to get herself out of a menacing situation. A few seconds tick by while she thinks, before emitting a huge, blood-curdling shriek as a big bookcase crashes to the ground next to her, breaking the silence. To CyborgAngel's viewers, it was hilarious and frightening at the same time.
That type of virtual reality experience is what CyborgAngel is known for: she's constantly testing new experiences in VR while streaming on Twitch, trying pretty much everything. That includes popular horror titles, like the terrifying Paranormal Activity, and mainstream titles like Elite: Dangerous and Fallout.
"I always want to be one step ahead of other streamers, especially through the content I make," CyborgAngel tells SYFY WIRE. "VR is important because it's what's new and it goes back to being one step ahead, it's is going to help us connect with people like being at their doorstep now that social interactions get less frequent."
CyborgAngel doesn't want to just be part of the VR movement, she wants to be at the forefront.
"If there is any one goal, it'd for me to be at the forefront of VR and help get the word out, since streaming is a tool that can share its possibilities," she explains. "The real passion of mine is to be the face of VR, since I don't think anyone has done that yet."
It was only a year ago that she quit working in insurance to try streaming full time and now she has nearly 35,000 followers on Twitch and over 15,000 followers on Twitter. Part of that success is due to the unique effort that she puts into some of her streams, dealing with VR-induced illnesses and cosplaying while in-game.
In one instance she cosplayed as Lara Croft while playing Tomb Raider VR: Lara's Escape, a short experience where you explore Croft Manor in virtual reality.
"I don't cosplay often and when I do it can be kind of crappy," she says. "This time was about exploring the mansion and the cosplay worked because they see your full person, it helped transfer the hype and made the stream a bit more exciting."
CyborgAngel also looked at it as one of the ways she promotes VR to her audience. Not as a product, but as something that will change the way we play and interact with each other in the future.
She even went as far as to say that something like the extremely thorough and popular virtual world from Ready Player One may be a possibility in the near future, to a certain extent.
"I think we're no more than 10 years away from something like The Oasis," CyborgAngel says. "Not in terms of the haptic suits or the omnidirectional treadmills, but program-wise. I can see something that's a popular enough world where we all walk around in the same instance."
Before we can get to that point, though, we have to deal with some of the pitfalls of VR, especially a nauseating one that streamers are all-too-familiar with. "Motion sickness can be a big part of it, I can go up to seven hours non-stop without getting sick, but that wasn't the case at the start," CyborgAngel said. "When you play a new game you can have motion sickness after 15 minutes of playing."
While motion sickness, headaches, and eye issues have improved as developers have had more time to deal with VR, and players have had more time to adapt, it's still an issue that hurts the medium as a whole. Even just getting around in the VR world can be sickening, because different games treat walking in different ways. Some, like Fallout 4 VR, use a sort of point-and-click teleporting style to "walk."
"I feel queasy, especially when I go from one game to another. You can walk in one game and be fine and then go into another game and small details that are different can affect you," she said. "In order to overcome it I have to take breaks on stream, I tell viewers I'm having a break, I grab a tea, sit down, and talk with the streamers to help them get to know me better."
Spending more time out of VR on stream would make life easier for CyborgAngel, but she's committed to the technology and working through these issues.
"Streamers are promoting investment in this type of technology, stuff that will help people in the long run," she said. "It's more than just gaming, it's got 101 possibilities ahead of it and I want to help lead that charge."