Whether you are into video games or not, this is something you must try. Before I get into how amazing Zero Latency’s VR Arena is, I want to take a moment to mention where I played it.
Kalahari Resorts in the Poconos of PA was probably my second favorite vacation of all time (Second only to Disney). The décor, food, water park, arcade, shops, and comfort of the rooms are only part of the experience. We stayed from Friday through Sunday, and it served as a perfect little get away.
Now onto the gaming experience. I was privileged to try the Arena and given a selection of which scenario I’d like to try. As of right now there are only a handful, but this is just the beginning of an era in VR technology. I’ve tried the headsets you can buy in the store, but they don’t even compare. The arena is in a full sized warehouse. It is an empty dark room with some circles on the floor and walls. You wear a vest, headset and VR helmet, which puts you into the game using a series of motion capture sensors.
I had the honor of meeting Andre, who works with the company responsible for the games. We spoke a bit about the two available games (they run about 20 minutes each), and what is on the horizon for the company. Hint: They are opening more locations around the country and the world.
You must be 13 to play these games and that is for a safety aspect. The one game I didn’t try was called “Engineerium.” It is a cartoony world where you solve puzzles to progress. There is no shooting or action, but the bit that I saw was out of this world… literally. It works in an M.C. Esher manner where you can walk on walls and upside down. In real life you are standing and walking in a room, but your mind sees and tells your body something else.
Since I just did the Escape the Room experience a few weeks ago, I wanted to get into the genre where I first began writing books. Since FLESH AND LEFTOVERS was my debut novel years ago, I felt it’d be good to revisit zombies. So, I played “Survival.”
I was warned before hand that this can be an overwhelming and downright intense experience. I’ve tried military simulators in the past, so I wasn’t worried. I now retract that line of thought. This is something way beyond that. Picture yourself inside a video game, able to walk around in a place that responds to your body movements.
The survivalist in me didn’t need the four weapons supplied. (You are given a shotgun, sniper rifle, assault rifle, and heavy assault rifle.) You only actually carry one weapon in your hand, but a button on the side allows you to switch back and forth. I’m a person who likes to make every shot count, and conserve my ammunition. I stayed mostly with the light assault rifle for short controlled bursts. It paid off.
Myself, and 4 others were put into the scenario together. I was the only person who hadn’t played it before, but was able to figure out a plan immediately. In this game you must defend your position from a horde of zombies. Not only is it important to make your shots count (headshots are the best), but to utilize the explosive barrels, and keep your defense barriers erected to prevent an onrush.
Andre played with us, and he took a sniper position on an elevated platform. (In reality he was really on the level we were, but to us and him in game, he was up high.) We worked well together for the first ten minutes. Our base was heavily fortified. But then it became frantic. More zombies came, and this is when the stress began to kick in. Andre called down to tell us that he was coming down to help out. The zombies started finding a way up to him, and it was becoming harder to maintain our borders.
Then someone shouted, “We’ve got a breach!” and as I turned around I saw a zombie within a few feet of me. I ran. Yes, literally ran away as I fired into its face. My flaw was not thinking about what was behind me, and the surround sound told me I needed to turn fast. A massive beast of an undead man towered over me by a few inches and I managed to dodge in the nick of time.
At this point in the game, I actually felt anxiety. I kept telling myself this wasn’t real, but when I say I could feel fear build within me, I’m not lying. I breathed slowly and tried to act calm to concentrate on the task, and not the flurry of emotion. One of my squad mates was then “eaten.” When you die, you stay in place in a neutral state until you are respawned ten seconds later. I did not die, but when your team mate does, it becomes even harder.
Movement is the key. This is not a shoot em up game. This is survival… and shooting is only part of that. Communication and agility help as key factors. Once the helicopter arrived to lift our platform, we ran to the extraction zone. This was very difficult because you need to remain relatively confined at this point. The good news is that you are all back to back, so you can cover each other and all sides.
Once our platform was lifted, I switched to my sniper rifle and began picking off the horde from a distance. This was more calming and was a good wind down to the whole thing. There are people who have run out on the scenario and have asked to be removed from the game for its intensity. It is only a game, but your mind does a great job of taking you into that virtual world.
If horror isn’t a thing for you, then you need to try the Engineerium. It won’t scare you, or get your anxiety up, but will force your perception of reality into another world.
They also rank you in the game. I scored the highest kills in my squad, and among the thousands of people who have played, I placed #115 in rank. Apparently I’m a way better survivalist (though not the best) than a gamer, because if this were on a TV, I wouldn’t have the benefit of being able to see all my surroundings.
I can see this as a more improved training device, not just for fun, but for running special training for police and military at some point. (Of course nothing will prepare you for the real thing, but this is an amazing step toward that)
I’ve attached a pic of my score, and if you head over to my Instagram page @rickpipito, you’ll see a little video clip of me being calibrated into the game. I’ve also embedded a trailer of the game I played (below). Picture what you see there, but up close and personal, and all around you. The visuals and audio provided really take you to another place. Also, head over to http://www.zerolatencyvr.com to learn more about it and all their games/locations.
Have you ever tried Virtual reality like this? let me know what you think. Comment with your thoughts on where gaming is going or anything else you want to say.