Courtesy Level 1 Escape

Virtual Reality arcade levels up Calgary gaming scene

By Clara Sadler, September 8 2016 —

Want to walk through a video game, shooting zombies and slicing fruit for real? Now you can.

Level 1 Escape has brought Western Canada’s first virtual reality arcade to Calgary and it feels like Star Trek’s holodeck.

The arcade, consisting of two bay stations with VR headsets, headphones, sensors and controllers, allows players to fully immerse themselves within their chosen game. While it may feel disorienting at first, this separation allows players to focus in on the game. Once players are set up in the VR equipment, they can choose what games they want to play from an online library.

Rather than having to invest hundreds of dollars into a personal VR system, Level 1 managing partner Kevin Wong says the arcade allows people to try VR gaming at a reasonable price.

“Because it’s such a new technology I think there’s always those early adopters, and there’s always some people willing to try but not fork out thousands of dollars to do it,” Wong says. “Maybe you don’t want to dish out $1,300 to get the headset and equipment and then have to buy each game for another 40 or 50 bucks.”

Level 1 VR offers a large library of games. The Lab — one of the more popular titles in the arcade — takes full advantage of the VR environments as players explore a futuristic laboratory, picking up objects or petting robotic dogs. Mini games within The Lab make you fend off hordes of attacking barbarians with a motion-controlled bow and arrow or pilot a mini drone to take out invading space aliens.

VR zombie survival games offered by the arcade let games gun down hordes of the undead, with gameplay reminiscent of old school House of the Dead light-gun arcade games. And a VR edition of Fruit Ninja is simultaneously incredibly fun and surprisingly difficult, reminding you that you are nowhere close to being a real-life ninja.

While slicing virtual fruit and slaying zombies is fun on your own, Level 1’s VR Arcade has co-op capabilities. Players in each VR bay can connect the systems and play games cooperatively or competitively.

Although Level 1 started as an escape room company, Wong says expanding to VR gaming was a way for the company to stay ahead of the curve and keep people entertained with the latest gaming trends.

“We’re always looking at what’s out there what’s new, what’s cool out in the world, what people are discussing. And we think VR is one of those things that is the future of entertainment,” Wong says. “I think VR eventually will be at a certain point where everyone will have one, [like] a Playstation or an Xbox.”

While the Virtual Reality Arcade has been booked to near capacity since opening, Wong says there are plans for expansion.

“We’re expanding to the other side of our current facility. We’ll be doubling to 6,000 square feet. Along with that, we have a lot of escape rooms planned, but if this takes off we have some extra space where we can probably bring in more VR stations,” Wong says. “Our goal is to stabilize the system because it’s still fairly new, expand our game roster and make sure that players have the best experience possible.”

Bookings are available online. Tickets are $60 per session.

For more information, visit level1escape.com

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