Walking the Plank

You may never shake the fear, but you might change how you feel about it.

Cory Doctorow
5 min readJan 22


A pair of legs and feet traversing a plank, high over a city street. The street below has a hypnotic spiral. The feet are blurred. The plank has a subtle “Matrix Waterfall” effect worked into its grain. The end of the plank fades into nothingness.
Heinz Bunse/CC BY-SA 2.0 (modified)

Richie’s Plank Experience is a terrifying VR game first released in 2016. In the game, the user rides up a simulated elevator to a rooftop that is 525 (simulated) feet above street level. Then, the user steps out on a (simulated) plank and walks out on it, over a vertiginous (simulated) drop.

There’s a whole YouTube genre of people playing Richie’s Plank Experience. In some of these videos, they walk out over an actual plank:

In others, they simply walk on level ground:

Either way, the effect is the same: the player straps a VR brick to their face, then teeters, totters, shuffles, gasps and inches their way across an imaginary plank in a simulated world.

I’ve never played Richie’s Plank Experience (I have terrible astigmatism and I can’t converge 3D images without getting a blinding headache). But I can relate. I grew up in Toronto, where the CN Tower (billed as “the world’s tallest freestanding structure” — a desperate string of modifiers if ever there was one!) whose 113th storey Terrace Level boasted a glass floor that you could step out onto:

Pascal Reusch/CC BY-SA 3.0

I must have visited the CN Tower at least once a year as a kid, on school trips or when relatives came to town. Despite all the signage to reassure visitors that the glass could bear “the weight of 35 moose,” despite the decades in which the CN Tower stood without incident, despite my faith in engineering principles and Toronto’s excellent building inspectors, my body insisted that I was in grave danger.



Cory Doctorow

Writer, blogger, activist. Blog: https://pluralistic.net; Mailing list: https://pluralistic.net/plura-list; Mastodon: @pluralistic@mamot.fr