Virtual reality arcade coming to town

A virtual reality arcade coming to Sarnia will use HTC Vive headsets similar to these. Photo courtesy HTC Vive

Troy Shantz

If you’ve always wanted to hike among the craters of Mars, you’re in luck. And you don’t need a spaceship.

A virtual reality arcade is coming to Sarnia and it promises to give participants roller coaster rides, mythical adventures and a trip to the red planet — all without leaving town.

The owners of District Beta say they plan to open Labour Day weekend in a space above Valley Axe on London Line.

“There’s lot’s of fighting games, first person shooters, there’s artistic games where you can draw and make stuff,” said co-owner Travis Kelly

“They have what they call ‘experiences,’ so you’re not actually fighting anything like in a game. What you’re doing is you’re sitting there, taking in an experience.”

Customers can gear up with the provided headset and controllers (one for each hand), and choose from among 200 different games and experiences, at a cost of $30 an hour.

The space currently under renovation will feature four eight-foot by eight-foot gaming booths for each of the consoles.

The plan is to add three more VR stations by Christmas, Kelly said.

The 21-year-old Lambton College grad runs a software company in town and works for Valley Axe. He dove into the venture after experiencing VR technology at a similar arcade in Guelph.

“The first time I tried it out, I don’t even know how to describe it,” said Kelly. “I remember there was one game… I was standing up on a cliff, and I looked down and actually got tingly, like scared of heights almost, from the game.

“I was sold.”

Kelly said they plan to take bookings through their website. Customers should arrive 15 minutes early for a quick instructional on the equipment.

Customers are welcome to share the experience among friends. You can take turns (no more than three are recommended) or rent multiple VR booths and join in multiplayer games.

“You can play with people who are in the same room, sitting beside you, but you can also play against people in China,” said Kelly, adding the games and experiences are appropriate for all ages.

Kelly commissioned a local company to build the computers that power the VR systems, which will use HTC Vive headsets specially ordered from the U.S.

Before the official opening, District Beta plans to offer trial runs of the technology at Valley Axe, located at 1886 London Line, Sarnia.

For more about demonstrations and bookings visit www.districtbeta.ca or www.facebook.com/districtbeta.