A video gaming revolution is underway in the Comox Valley.
Two virtual reality gaming centres opened for business last month. VREX opened in Comox on Oct. 27 and Spaces VR opened in Courtenay two days later.
Modern VR gaming systems feature a headset and two handheld controllers. The headset simulates a stereoscopic 3D environment and the handheld controllers allow users to interact with their surroundings through hand gestures.
It’s gaming on a level far more immersive than traditional console or computer systems.
“When you put that [headset] on, you’re not here anymore. You’re in the VR world,” said VREX founder and owner James Brown.
Both facilities in the Comox Valley feature similar games and simulators. Players can visit the Acropolis in Athens, shoot down spaceships, or use a virtual bow and arrow to protect their castle from being besieged. All in less than an hour.
For Brown — who used to work as a carpenter before a back injury forced a career change — the decision to open a VR facility in the Comox Valley was born out of a life-long desire to own a business and a love of technology.
But mostly, he said, it was through having two teenaged sons who felt their options for entertainment on the weekend were limited.
“The whole motivation behind this is that I have a couple of teenagers,” said Brown. “In the past, I’d say, ‘why don’t you guys go out and do something?’ and they’d say ‘but dad, there’s nothing to do.”
Spaces VR founder Matt Adamson’s interest in VR started roughly two decades ago when introductory systems were introduced in the late 1990s.
“The idea that you can put yourself in the computer and it would generate an alternate reality blew me away. It grabbed me,” he said.
After 15 years working as a financial translator in Japan, Adamson came back to the Comox Valley to launch his VR business this year.
“This became part of the plan of moving home. I’d been in Japan for 15 years. Coming home and doing this was all part of it,” he said.
While the facility is currently open, Adamson says Spaces VR will hold a grand opening on Dec. 2.
He said the first few weeks of business have shown there is a demand for VR in the Comox Valley.
“A lot of people have been coming in on the weekends and tons of people have been coming back,” he said. “The amount of return customers is really encouraging.
“For a soft open, the response has been very good.”
VREX is located at the intersection of Anderton Road and Guthrie Road, behind the Tim Hortons. Spaces VR is located at 29 Street and Cliffe Avenue, behind the Great Canadian Oil Change.