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Grandma Uses Oculus Rift as Cancer Therapy

In our accidental and continuing series of adorable old ladies and new virtual reality technology, I happened upon another grandma trying out the Oculus Rift dev kit for the first time. This time, it wasn’t quite so joyous or effervescent when you’re told the poignant backstory. The grandmother, named Roberta, a wispy haired, quiet-voiced woman in a Halloween cat sweater, is diagnosed with terminal cancer and unfortunately confined to her home. Her favorite insect are butterflies, something she can’t even see from the confines of her home. Her granddaughter contacted Oculus VR to see if they could help her. They overnighted her a dev kit.

Anyway, words don’t do this justice. See her heart-breaking experience below. Note, it’s a bit long, around 13 minutes, but stick around. It’s worth it more than you realize.



Listen to what Roberta had to say (at 10:36):

“When you become a part of the world that you already exist in, it helps you to put things in perspective. You can be in pain, I have pain, but somehow when you see a blue butterfly reach out to kiss you, and you see the fountains and the things comes so close, it makes you realize that we are all part of this world. And this world is very precious to us. Not only to me that’s going beyond, but to all my loved ones whom I’m leaving behind. We all love each other, we’re all close to each other, and this has been so therapeudic.

It should be put forth as a therapeudic type of thing that people can go to and become immersed in so that they too can see that although our lives seem short, they’re pretty long. Our lives sometime seem harsh and painful, they’re really not. They’re full of joy and happiness and beauty and I think this has been a most valuable experience. After all, that is life. Our experiences. And now that I’ve had all these experiences, it’s like sharing the experiences. I love it. Thank you, Priscilla.”

No, thank you. When I see something like this, my own problems feel small. Whether or not to buy Battlefield 4 Premium seems comically miniscule and laughable in comparison. To me, this only proves the immediacy and power of gaming to connect us with a larger, more fantastical world, even if it’s just reaching out to touch a digital butterfly or wander around a fountain. This video is proof positive that virtual reality and the power of games extend beyond living room entertainment, that they can touch a person in a meaningful and healing way. The Oculus Rift allowed this lovely woman to walk outside again.

oculus grandma2

Very rarely are we reminded of how video games help bring us that sense of wonder that few other mediums can bring. I’m not a sentimental person, but I admit I got choked up listening to her thoughts on such a remarkable moment for her. Oculus VR deserves a great measure of credit here, not just for the dev kit, but for not capitalizing on the story. Someone at Oculus VR gave Roberta a real gift. This isn’t a snarky blogger or a dry, analytical marketing ploy, this is a human being, and the end of her life, experiencing something real and true without a dash of cynicism or irony. We need more of this in our lives.

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Carl Wilhoyte

Carl Wilhoyte

Carl Wilhoyte is the Video Games Editor of a class warrior poet who writes about all things video games. He's sure everything is not under control and is not going to be okay. For a good time, follow his angry rants and smart thoughts on Twitter: @carlwilhoyte.