I admit I’m skeptical when it comes to virtual reality. I remember going to the South Florida Fair in 1991. I found my first virtual reality experience waiting for me, just past the pig races and the shifty carnies. I played ‘Dactyl Nightmare‘ in virtual reality for 10 minutes.

The experience was disappointing and it scared me.

Fast forward 20-plus years and we’re discussing the Oculus Rift, Google Cardboard and the HTC Vive. I’ve played with the Rift and it was OK – the best experience being the “A Night at the Roxbury” simulator. I do get a get a kick from my kids using Cardboard. They run into the wall when trying to reach the Eiffel Tower. That’s where my interest wanes.

I shed my skepticism this past Wednesday at CTRL-V, Canada’s first virtual reality arcade. CTRL-V is opening in a former BlackBerry building (RIM 6 for you alumni). CTRL-V is next to the University of Waterloo campus and close to local tech companies including Magnet Forensics, Auvik Networks and HockeyTech.

CTRL-V features 16 custom-built stations featuring HTC Vive headsets. Gamers pay $20 an hour for the chance to play titles including Space Pirate Trainer, Cloudlands Mini Golf, The Lab, Universe Sandbox, and Affected. “We are able to cater to the novice and new gamer,” said Robert Bruski, CFO and partner of CTRL-V, “however we’ve also set up the infrastructure for hardcore gamers to spend hours in there, too.”

Seasoned Vive gamers know what to expect. New gamers will be blown away.

I jumped into Space Pirate Trainer and the Portal-themed The Lab. Space Pirate instantly made me forget I was in virtual reality. The simple movement of reaching over your shoulder to grab a shield throws you into the game. I swore a physical shield lied in my grip.

CTRL-V

The Lab took the spot as my favourite experience. Easily navigating around it, I found myself in robot repair where I butchered a poor robotic patient. The visuals were the closest thing to Tony Stark exploding a CAD design in “Iron Man.” It was as if I was manipulating a 3D plan of the robot I was committing malpractice on.

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CTRL-V has a soft opening this Saturday, May 28 with free game play and officially opens on June 1. “There’s already been some interest in franchising,” said Bruski.

Why open in Waterloo? “The talent and interest are here,” said Bruski. “We’re all Waterloo natives, so having the talent and interest in our backyard is a huge bonus. This doesn’t mean that it won’t work in large place like Toronto or New York, but to get things rolling we might as well start with what we have at home.”

Yet another reason we need high-speed rail from Toronto to Waterloo.

About The Author

Alex Kinsella
Digital Community Manager

Alex Kinsella is Communitech's Digital Community Manager. Part of the tech scene in Waterloo Region since 2004, Alex has worked at GBG, BlackBerry, and Thalmic Labs.