The high-pressure world of bomb defusing is not for me.
I don’t have the stomach for it, nor do I have the eyes (I’m color-blind). Thankfully, advances in virtual reality have allowed me to experience the thrills of snipping the blue wire without stressing out over the potentially disastrous consequences.
Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes is an independent game in development by a tiny team at Steel Crate Games (to be released later this year). Playing requires a minimum of two participants. One player straps on a VR headset (Oculus and Gear VR support are planned) and is placed in a virtual room containing a bomb and filled with complex traps and symbols. It’s a bit like stepping into a scene from a James Bond flick, complete with a giant digital clock, counting down dramatically. The objective? Defuse the bomb in time.
Unfortunately, there are plenty of ways to set off the bomb and just one right way to defuse it. That’s where player two comes in. The helper bee wears no VR headset and has no screen to look at. Instead, player two is given a large three-ring binder containing dozens of printed pages detailing exactly how one might defuse this bomb.
Suddenly, the clock starts ticking and the yelling commences.
The player unlucky enough to be staring at a bomb needs to describe what he is looking at to the player with the giant binder, who must then find the corresponding page in the massive tome. For instance, you might have to describe a series of vertical wires connected to LEDs. It’s up to player two to figure it out, find the right page, and tell you how to defuse it.
The stress of trying to solve a logic puzzle as your buddy is screaming that he’s about to blow up is harrowing — and hilarious. I’d like to say that it ended well. It didn’t. As my partner removed his headset, he glared at me. And yet, even in failure, it was a real thrill.
Ben Kane, co-founder of Steel Crate Games, says that reaction is pretty common.
"One of the best we had was a couple that was playing and had a pretty intense argument,” he said. “They were at each other’s throats as the game ended and just instantly broke off, smiles on their faces, and very genuinely thanked us."
Virtual reality can transport us into fabulous worlds, battling dinosaurs or dodging laser blasts. But it also disconnects us from our own world, sealing off anyone nearby in favor of a deeply personal experience. Games like Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes are stemming that tide, offering cooperative alternatives that blend the real world with VR in inventive ways. Getting blown up is just the beginning.