Randy Pitchford and Penn Jillette on the best use for virtual reality: Magic

June 13, 2018

So the video above likely requires some explanation for those of you whose nerdery is limited solely to the magical arts. E3, or the Electronic Entertainment Expo, is a yearly videogame conference. The main attraction is essentially a series of giant stage presentations in which overworked game creators display legitimate marvels of technology that took hundreds of thousands of collective hours of painstaking work to make, in a foolhardy bid to please a swarm of miserable gremlins on Twitter who will pounce upon any perceived flaw in the presentation as evidence that the product is irredeemable trash garbage that must be hurled into the ocean. As both a Twitter and pedantry enthusiast, it’s my favorite event of the year. Naturally, I think all of this year’s games look terrible. 

But there was an interesting presentation in which Penn Jillette joined Gearbox CEO, Randy Pitchford, (who for disclosure purposes I should mention is the owner of GeniiOnline) to perform a trick or two and talk about their upcoming collaborative project, Penn & Teller VR. While other developers might be trying to push the virtual reality medium forwards with immersive, narrative-driven experiences that speak to the audience on a personal level, Pitchford and Jillette are engaged in a far more noble pursuit: using the technology to scare the crap out of people. Indeed, it seems like Penn & Teller VR: Frankly Unfair, Unkind, Unnecessary & Underhanded, to use its full title, is basically a collection of mini-games designed to lull your victim into a false sense of security before you dump spiders on them or drop them off a (virtual) building.

This isn’t the first time Gearbox has collaborated with Penn & Teller on a VR project. Back in 2017, they released a virtual reality remake of Jillette’s magnum opus, Desert Bus. 

Even if videogames aren’t your thing, the pair still have time to pontificate on the nature of magic and how to translate that into interactive entertainment, which is a genuinely interesting topic. Plus, watching Pitchford and Jillette bounce off each other is always fun.