Tis the season for carols...
Virtualworld in Claremont
Cape Town’s first-ever virtual reality arcade offering gamers an all-new out-of-this-world experience using the latest HTC Vive technology
By definition, I would never describe myself as a gamer – not of any sort. Sure, back in primary school I had The Sims – I would sit for hours building my cybernetic families elaborate six storey houses – and then there was also a short Super Mario Bros. must-rescue-the-princess stint, but other than that I can’t say there were many others.
So I must admit, when I first arrive at Virtualworld – the Mother City’s, not to mention, the country’s first-ever all-new virtual reality arcade – located on the ground floor of Stadium on Main in Claremont, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect…
“Fit the mask over your head until it sits comfortably”, Poland-born owner Arek Komorowicz kindly instructs helping me manoeuvre the HTC Vive headset until it’s snugly and securely positioned on my face. Complete with high-quality JBL headphones and two HTC Vive wireless controllers, one in each hand, I’m ready to begin. The earphones crackle to life and I hear Konrad, Arek’s son’s soothing voice say that the eight minute virtual reality (VR) introduction will begin shortly.
Officially opening in July 2016, Virtualworld was born owing to Arek and Konrad’s fascination for HTC technology as well as their passion for gaming. Following VR internationally – Arek keeps up-to-date with latest technological developments (especially within the HTC circle) – and upon hearing about the release of an all-new HTC virtual reality device, Arek decided it was time to introduce Cape Town (and South Africa) to the superior technology in the form of a virtual reality arcade.
“I’m a gadget geek”, the owner confesses, “and when I find something cool that is being released – I have to have it. And this is so cool!”
Virtualworld offers customers two solo 4x3m gaming stations. Using HTC Vive, gamers are not only able to look around their virtual environment – 110 degrees field of view for captivating immersion – but are also physically able walk and interact – 360 degrees motion tracking – within their surroundings. Comprising five pieces in total (all imported from Poland); the HTC Vive head-mounted display (HMD), two HTC Vive motion controllers and two small cube ‘lighthouses’ found in the top corners of the gaming rooms, Virtualworld uses the latest HTC Vive technology awarding users with an unparalleled immersive visual, audio and physical experience.
“If you have a look at the controllers and headset you will see they have little circles on them – these are all laser senses and receptors – they’re able to determine your every move as long as you are confined to the play area”, explains Arek. “Every move you make is tracked precisely and then is run through a very powerful computer and high resolution graphic card.”
With a wide range of games available – there are over 30 games in total (think action, education, horror, sport and more) – Virtualworld caters for all ages, although you must be of a certain height and size to fit and use the HTC Vive gear. (Arek likes to use the height of a reception desk as a good measurement of this.) From learning ’to job’ as a robot in Job Stimulator and fighting waves of droids in Space Pirate Trainer to being Luke Skywalker in the latest Star Wars Trails on Tatooine and taking a historical tour though Tutankhamen’s pyramid in Discover Egypt: King Tut’s Tomb – there is truly something for everyone to enjoy. What’s more, some games can support multiplayer allowing gamers to play simultaneously.
“We’re planning to include more games and devices all the time constantly evolving with new technology and video games as well as bring in a driver’s seat for racing or flying games”, Konrad adds.
Once I’ve completed the VR introduction and have a hang for the advanced technology, the Virtualworld team takes me on a truly immersive and incomparable adventure. Diving deep into the ocean, I swim with whales and stingrays until I'm rocketed beyond our atmosphere where I dodge meteors and gravity less rocks in space. I travel through the human brain healing neurons, fight space pirates and even blow up a storage annex using a slingshot – what a journey it is and the best part? I haven’t even left the designated gaming zone!
Drawing my longbow for the last time aiming my final long feathered arrow at the horde of rampaging attackers invading my noble castle below, everything Arek has said about HTC Vive and VR makes sense: “It’s so uplifting to see people enjoy the VR experience and have fun. Every person leaves with a big smile on their face and some people have already been back four or five times – they’re addicted to the technology.”
And honestly, I think I may be too.
NOTE: Book your corporate function, birthday party or team building event (and more) at Virtualworld. Please contact the arcade directly for quotations and availability. Gift Cards and Gamer Vouchers are available as well.
Student Tip: Virtualworld is currently running its ‘Back to Varsity’ student special. All students will receive 35% off when purchasing an hour or more play time (R260 per an hour). Students are welcome to share the hour with another student (R130 for 30 minutes each). All students must produce a valid student card for the special to apply. Offer valid until 20 August 2016.
The Bill: 30 minutes: R200 | 60 minutes: R400 | Booking in advanced in highly advised
First timers will receive a free eight minute VR introduction to learn the Vive system
Opening Hours: Daily: 10am – 8pm
by Krysia Gaweda
Video Credit: Virtualworld
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