I found a virtual reality arcade unlike anything I’ve seen in South Africa – you can shoot zombies, have snowball fights and even diffuse bombs
- A new arcade totally dedicated to virtual reality gaming has opened its doors in a Cape Town mall.
- You can shoot zombies, have snowball fights with your friends, and diffuse bombs.
- VR can be very expensive for the average South African gamer, with just the headsets costing R12,000.
A modern arcade totally dedicated to virtual reality gaming has opened its doors in an unlikely spot at the Canal Walk shopping centre, in Cape Town.
Virtual Realms is unlike any arcade South Africa has ever seen before.
Instead of playing Street Fighter on button-based machines built in the 1980s, you can shoot zombies, have snowball fights with your friends, and diffuse bombs with your work colleagues.
Its owner, Zak Simmons, came up with the idea after showing some friends his own virtual reality console setup at home.
“I enjoyed sharing its immersive experience so much, I thought 'hey, why don’t I set up an arcade and do it full time',” said Simmons.
Simmons studied programming in the UK before returning to South Africa to establish the arcade.
VR can be very expensive for the average South African gamer. One headset can cost R11,999.
That's the cheaper end of your purchase. The heavy-duty computers required to run the games can cost tens of thousands of rands to run seamlessly.
At home, the VR experience is also limited to just one screen and your tiny lounge. In the arcade, you can experience VR at its best in a 3-metre square studio with cameras capturing a full 360-degree experience.
The arcade boasts 6 booths which allows you to play with your friends, or your sworn mortal enemies, depending on the game.
I found it on a Saturday morning and the experience was so real I didn’t want to leave.
Here’s what it was like:
They have 6 booths geared up with R12,000 HTC VIVE headsets.
Their computers are built to a high specification and can handle the intense graphic load required to generate the virtual world in a seamless and efficient manner.
The real performance power comes from their computer setup.
CPU: Ryzen 7
RAM: 16GB DDR4
Graphics card: Nvidia GTX 1080
Storage: NVMe SSD
Cooling: Water cooled
A party favourite is Beat Sabre
I'm much slower than the pros.
They also have two racing chairs that move
They’re fitted with Oculus Rift headsets (R17,000) that run on motion-simulated seats. The experience is so real, we got car sick.
They offer a 10-minute tryout if you’ve never played before. It's just long enough to get you hooked.
There are 50 games to choose from - including the South African gladiator game Gorn, created by Cape Town company FreeLives.
For an ‘entry package’ you’ll pay R100 for 30 minutes, or R180 for 60 minutes. This offers a limited bouquet of games for beginners.
For the more advanced players, with access to all the games on their bouquet, the ‘standard package’ will cost you R140 for 30 minutes or R220 for 60 minutes.
I played a game that lets you walk on a plank from 80 storeys up.
Richies Plank Experience freaked me out and left me shaking with fear.
I also realised I would be useless if ever there was a zombie apocalypse.
“We have a number of games where players can work together as a team or play against each other more competitively,” said Simmons.
Simmons says there are also adult-based games. One of them is called 'Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes'. The game requires that your team instruct a squad member to diffuse bombs. If you stop talking, everyone blows up. Perfect for diffusing office tension and building teamwork.
The space is pretty hard to find - it's the third floor of the Canal Walk Shopping Centre's food court.
It's accessible via a vintage staircase, located just above the Cape Town Fish Market.
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