VIRTUAL SPHERE – THE LATEST VR TECHNOLOGY IN GENEVA
by Chené Koscielny
“Would you like to shoot something?” he asks 10 minutes into our interview.
This is not a question I’d anticipated.
“Errr, I don’t usually shoot things…” I said apologetically and started sweating on the spot…
Fast forward 15 minutes and I am happily firing away at life-size zombies with a shotgun, before advancing to an AK47.
Next I am slaying a giant spider in my path with a sword… literally chopping it up, but it keeps coming at me…
Not the way I usually spend a weekday afternoon, but definitely more exciting than my usual dog walk and coffee break.
I tried out Virtual Sphere, Geneva’s first virtual reality game arena in Carouge, which offers the latest technology that allows you to turn 360 degrees with unlimited full-speed movement, including running – and no, it’s not just for kids!
VR REALITY GAME – LATEST TECHNOLOGY IN GENEVA
For the uninitiated – you enter a different reality by stepping onto a magnetic round-plate, wearing special shoes and sensors which track your every move, as well as hand-held joysticks with sensors and a helmet with a headphone and VR glasses. This means you’re totally immersed in the game you choose – and you can reach out, fight, run towards (and away from…) things, open doors, chop, slice and shoot!
As I’m a virtual reality virgin, we start off very gently with a ‘nature walking’ experience, which is lovely and very real, but once I’d blasted my first zombie, there was no turning back.
I also tried target shooting with a bow and arrow, but I was quite rubbish at this as coordination is not one of my strengths in reality, nor virtual reality, it seems. So, we moved straight into the dangerous world of zombies carnage.
The zombie game was called VRZ torment, whereafter I also played Primordian which featured giant spiders and monsters.
The 360-degree feature of this Omniverse technology means that even at beginner level monsters and zombies are coming at you from all angles and you need eyes at the back of your head! Screaming is unavoidable at this point. You can also turn around and even run at top speed in all directions. (although technically you stay on one spot!)
It could even be said that it’s ‘healthy gaming’ according to Beck, as you’re moving while playing. Healthy, maybe not, but exhausting certainly.
Running – as this was my first time (and possibly because I was already sweating quite profusely) we didn’t explore this feature and I only walked around – a kind of moonwalking slip-sliding move on a metal plate, while leaning forward. You’re strapped in tightly, thank God, as some people ,understandably, do try to jump off.
WHO IS VIRTUAL SPHERE AIMED AT?
I tried to convince Beck, the owner who originally hails from Khazakstan and owns a similar gaming center in Monaco, before my visit that I’m most definitely not his target audience. I thought he’d be better off inviting my 15-year-old and 10-year-old sons, but he assured me that Virtual Sphere is aimed at adults and kids, including novices like me.
Children need to have a minimum height of 140cm to play (usually around 10+) and should be accompanied by an adult, if under 15.
The game can be played alone – or in groups of a maximum of 6 and the centre is increasingly being booked for team building sessions.
So, for example in the zombie game, the team could strategize to try and outsmart the zombies.
It’s not recommended to play for more than 15 minutes as the virtual reality effects could cause dizziness in some people. Luckily, I didn’t feel dizzy at all and could have continued for hours…
WHICH GAMES AT VIRTUAL SPHERE ARE THE MOST POPULAR?
No surprises here – the most popular games are the shooting games. Let’s not over-analyze this, but I assure you there is something very satisfying about sending a zombie up in flames.
Escape games are popular too – and again, groups can work together using logic to try to escape from for example an apartment before the killer gets them. If they lose one team member, the game’s up and they start again.
There are 20+ games to choose from.
Games include Vindicta, Core defence, Hard point, Karnage Chronicles and Red October.
CHAMPIONSHOPS OR E-SPORTS
For serious gamers, there will be championships held with massive financial prizes – including a CHF10,000 prize in October for a team of 3 players against another team of 3 players. The winners could continue to play in an international online championship.
HOW MUCH DO VIRTUAL SPHERE GAMES COST?
One session lasts 15 minutes and cost CHF45. It is advisable to take a break after 15 minutes, but your game can be saved – even for another day, if you have an account.
This is a fun, immersive experience and I can definitely see how it can be enjoyed with family or friends – although for young kids I would definitely stay away from the scary and nasty games. I was dripping with sweat from the adrenalin and movement and I was not even running.
This is a fun way to spend an afternoon and I could see how it could be fun as an office team building exercise.