Stepping into Zach Brown’s new arcade business, you quickly realize that some very cool technology is going mainstream in the world of video games.
Earlier this month Brown opened Heady Virtual Reality at 215 W. Holly St., Suite B-28 (near the Bay Street entrance of the Bellingham Hardware Building). It currently offers three virtual reality stations with about 70 different games, including single- and multi-player formats.
Donning a helmet and goggles, a player is fully immersed in a program, whether it is a shoot-em-up style game or just relaxing on the beach. Customers can even dabble with 3-D art.
Brown, who has a background in video production, first tried virtual reality two years ago and was fascinated by its potential. While pondering a career path, Brown did his research and found the equipment costs reached a point that opening an arcade was feasible.
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Virtural Reality, or VR, is an up-and-coming trend that Brown expects will be used in many different industries. It’s already being tested in hospitals for patients in recovery, classrooms and for people suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, he said. The movie industry is also introducing short films in a VR format, putting movie-goers in the middle of a scene.
His first day of business was during the August Art Walk, and about 50 people from all walks of life came in to check it out. He estimates about 90 percent of those visitors had never tried virtual reality. For those who haven’t tried VR, there is a free, four-minute demo program to help familiarize them with the concept.
“I just want people to have fun with it,” Brown said, adding for many it is a surreal experience. “The expression on their faces (when they try it for the first time) is worth it.”
A couple of other things to note about VR: It can be a more-active experience than other types of video games, so breaking a sweat is more common. It can also be relaxing experience because it allows people to unplug from the daily stress of work, he said.
Since it does a good job tricking the brain, it’s something to keep in mind as gamers stand in a relatively empty area. Riding a roller coaster in VR may give you the same butterflies-in-the-stomach feeling that some experience on a real roller coaster.
The Heady name comes from a work of art called Heady, given to him by artist David Staley that hangs on a wall at the arcade. Designer Bob Paltrow added goggles to complete the look.
“(VR) is also an in-your-head experience,” Brown said.
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