Anyone who spends even a few minutes watching the news lately could be forgiven for wanting an escape from reality.
Greenville residents are in luck, because a new virtual reality arcade has just opened up downtown on Main Street in the former Organic Cat Cafe location, right beside Mac’s Speed Shop and across from Fluor Field.
Wantec VR, the brainchild of married couple Stefan and Daria Rupp, offers fully immersive, full-body virtual reality in a controlled, safe and open setting.
“We want it to be an experience you go to with your friends and family,” Stefan Rupp said, “something you do together with other people.”
Unlike arcades like Dave and Buster’s, Wantec VR games are played based on appointment, so that players have the entire area to themselves. Rupp said the games are designed for kids and adults of all ages, the perfect introduction for those new to virtual reality — or VR, as it’s commonly known.
VR works by creating a simulated experience for users, allowing them to see, hear and interact with a world outside of reality. A typical VR setup includes a headset, headphones and controllers. The technology has been gaining popularity among consumers for the past decade, but those wishing to purchase their own VR kits will have to shell out hundreds of dollars, not including added cost for accessories and the games themselves.
Wantec VR allows players to simply make an appointment and come in with their friends and family to give it a try, with the added bonus of not risking bumping into your furniture. The VR arcade offers simulated race car driving, free-roaming shooting games and free-roaming quest games.
Those who’ve never tried VR before might be surprised how intuitive it feels — and how lifelike. Players use a headset and headphones, which allow them to see and hear the game, while also communicating with their teammates. They have two controllers, one for each hand.
It’s no secret that watching a team play one of these games is a goofy experience — people jumping and yelling and waving their arms around.
But anyone playing the games is in for something altogether different.
For those playing the zombie shooting game, the moment you slip on the headset, you enter a different world. Your family members or friends, who once looked silly in their headsets, now resemble Terminator warriors holding guns and flashlights. Your own hands are visible as well, animated in the VR world.
Meanwhile, the room itself has transformed into an intimate battlefield within an abandoned office building. Fires lick at the walls, lights flicker and objects lie around, ready to be kicked and pushed out of the way. A voice in your ear informs you via radio that you need to make it to the top floor in order for the rescue chopper to pick you up.
The only problem is, the building is overrun with zombies.
It’s difficult to fully explain just how scary and exhilarating it feels the first time a lifelike zombie comes rushing at you from around a corner. Many people will likely scream and jump back. But that initial fear quickly transforms into a kind of childlike giddiness, as you and your team members mow them down with your futuristic weapons.
It’s more than just the zombies that inspire awe. On upper levels of the simulated skyscraper, players will have to walk across wooden beams at the edges of the building, an entire city skyline burning in the distance. If you die in the game, it’s no big deal — the world simply turns gray, and all you have to do is walk over to a glowing green area in the corner to come back to life. It’s less about frustrating the player with high difficulty as it is about having fun.
By the time you reach the top floor 45 minutes later to face the final boss zombie and make your escape via helicopter, don’t be surprised if you’re sweating, as the game doubles as a low-impact workout.
Stefan and Daria Rupp said they hope the game will offer a new outlet for Greenville residents looking to have fun with friends and families, especially after people have been cooped up these past few months under stay-at-home measures.
“It’s a way to experience something you may never have experienced before,” Stefan Rupp said. “You can see a whole different world right here in town.”