By Jacob Trask
“Help me,” whimpered the girl in the glass case. She sat on a bench, staring at me through the longs wisps of dark hair over her eyes. My grip tightened around my rifle and my stomach churned.
“Why am I in here?” she cried. My head was on a swivel, keeping one eye on her and one eye on the closed door behind me. The zombies were surely coming back. I had killed so many but there had to be more. “Please help me,” the girl cried, louder than before.
“Oh no! No! No,” I pleaded with her in fear, knowing she didn’t really need my help. I shot a clip of rounds into the glass case, but it was no use. She was completely safe. Then suddenly the glass exploded, the lights flickered, and the room went completely dark.
I shouted and swore as my knees shook and my finger slammed on the trigger. Just as I turned toward the door behind me, a light flashed and the gnarling teeth and crazy diseased eyes of a young zombie girl appeared out of nowhere.
I screamed louder than I thought I could and leaned back into my harness, then broke into a hearty laugh as the screen went black.
After a few moments, my HTC Vive headset was off and I was looking at small studio room with two Virtuix Omni platforms that illuminated the walls with their eerie blue lights.
My legs were still shaking as I stepped off of the platform and changed out of the special Omni shoes. I was spooked but definitely satisfied, and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t more sold on virtual reality than I had been before.
Last week, I stepped out of my comfort zone. I scheduled an appointment at Vault Tec Virtual Arena, a local business that offers a virtual reality gaming experience using HTC’S Vive, a virtual reality headset, and the Virtuix Omni, a treadmill-like platform made specifically for VR gaming.
The business came up during a discussion with a friend about virtual reality, and as someone who has been skeptical about our potential reliability on virtually reality in the future, I was curious to see if this game justified my worry.
I made an appointment the day of on a slow Friday night, drove 15 minutes north from downtown, and found Vault Tec in a small plaza where it stood out.
The inside of the place was far more pleasant than I expected. The walls were decorated with video game paraphernalia and prices for games and times were written on a chalkboard. There was a comfy looking couch, a check-in desk, and a TV playing NFL Network. It felt like an uber-relaxed dentist’s office, and I could see the Virtuix Omni platforms through the studio window.
The manager, Akil Khalfani, took me into the back room and gave me the newbie rundown before giving me a pair of shoes with two plastic pucks on the bottom. I put them on, then stepped into the Omni platform and wrapped the harness around my waist. Once I was completely buckled in, Akil helped me put the Vive headset over my face.
It wasn’t long before I was looking at a digital image of what looked like a classroom, with a list of options spread out like a projector on the wall. Everything beyond the view on the Vive was completely blocked out. Immediately it felt like I was somewhere else, an incredibly strange sensation.
I was paying for a half-an-hour game, a $40 experience ($20 with a groupon). Since I was completely new to the game, Akil decided to put me through the basic half-hour experience, which started with an arena, robot shooting game.
In the game, two players protect a power source from attacking robots. You have two rapid-fire guns and just about endless grenades. The arenas make you move around quite a bit, which I found to be the most challenging part early on. Running requires you to lean into your harness and push the pucks on your shoes backwards across the platform. It feels strange, but after a round of practice, I felt capable enough.
So Akil got in the arena with me and we fought robots for what seemed like longer than I paid for. Simply put, I had a blast. The graphics of the Vive were awesome, the game was really fun, and getting the hang of the Omni was really satisfying.
We got in two full games that probably took about 15 minutes a piece. Then Akil told me to get ready for the “Military Op”, and switched the dual pistols in my hands with a rifle.
“Oh is this zombies?” I asked Akil.
“It’s that Military Op I was telling you about,” he said smugly.
Spoiler alert, it was zombies. Zombies, and a super creepy girl in a glass cage. Although the jump scares really got me, it was super fun, and Akil even sent me a video of my reaction afterwards.
I was far more satisfied than I had anticipated, and I even got $20 off of what I expected to pay with the groupon. Akil was very friendly, and made me feel comfortable doing something completely new to me.
“[Vault Tec] brings me to what I enjoy, which is people. I get to see people see something for the first time that they’ve never seen before and that’s very important to me,” he said.
I would say I’m a believer in VR gaming after my experience at Vault Tec. It’s definitely something worth checking out if you have a chance. It’s relatively inexpensive, especially if you use the groupon, and would be a really fun way to spend an afternoon with a group of friends.
Vault Tec is located at 4838 N Armenia Ave., and is open during various hours from Wednesday to Sunday. They run by appointment basis, so call in and schedule your session with some of the newest, most exciting technology in gaming.
Jacob Trask can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.