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Simulations That Go Beyond Reality

There has been a lot of talk about what will be the next evolution of laser tag. In recent years many of the major manufacturers have added bigger screens, touch screens, avatars, projections and even selfie cams to make the gear more interactive, so it’s no wonder some are looking to see if virtual reality is the next step. One arena manufacturer is already promoting a way for both VR and laser tag to coexist in the same space.

While virtual reality is NOT laser tag and (with all due respect to Bob Cooney) in my opinion it will likely not displace laser tag anytime soon, I do find it intriguing to see how strides in VR have managed to both simulate and integrate laser tag elements into new gaming experiences in their own way. I feel that VR has a place adjacent to laser tag in the amusement marketplace and there is room for both to complement, not only compete, to provide quality gaming experiences. I can appreciate both the similarities and the differences that make these kinds of games appealing in various ways and I can enjoy them both without thinking that they have to occupy the same function or space (and in the case of Limitless VR, this is a bit more literal).

In the last year I have started to take a greater interest in watching the evolution of VR attractions, so I decided to get some further firsthand experience by paying a visit to the new Beyond Reality VR location in New Hartford, NY.

I admit that I have only had a handful of VR experiences and that more of them have taken place at amusement industry trade shows than inside actual free roam arenas (though I have also had a handful of these opportunities too), so I was intrigued when I first chatted with Blake from the Beyond Reality team about a month ago when he told me about this new business and what they were doing. I learned that in addition to virtual escape rooms and other games, that they offer the Hero Zone Quantum Arena, which I had experienced once at a beta testing location in Indiana. As this seemed like one of the most laser tag-like experiences I have had with VR I definitely wanted to give it another go.

I didn’t arrive dressed for gaming, but one nice thing about VR is it does not move at the athletic pace of laser tag, so my attire was not a problem. I waited in the lounge area while my game was being prepared.

I met Steven, one of the business partners, and he showed me to the 15x15 foot arena room where we would play a free roaming VR game of Quantum Arena. I had played the Egypt theme previously, so I requested to mix it up and play the Japan theme. The images inside my headset showed my opponent to have a formidable looking avatar in this virtual simulation.

I presume my avatar looked similar in my opponent’s headset, but all I could see of myself were the virtual items in each of my hands.

The tools that appeared included a shield in my left and a phaser in my right, which I operated with two hand controllers. I could swap out the items by flicking my controller back over my shoulder.

Realistic “walls” appeared to create a visually cool environment to tag in and around. When I was deactivated, I would have to step into a cylinder of “light” to respawn and continue in the game. Then the environment would “reset”. There were three rounds of play and it took me a bit of time to get my bearings, but I did feel more confident about moving around in this space (I have not always felt that way in previous VR experiences) so the game was enjoyable and had a bit of a laser tag feel to it, which was what I was hoping for. I enjoyed this game very much!

Steven told me they have plans to take this VR experience out into the middle of the mall and mobile to events as well, so I am going to make a point to check those out. Competitive tournaments could definitely motivate me to try to develop some skill with this platform. Right now I look at it as an occasional novelty, tangentially related to my love of laser tag, but competition has always been the thing that lights a fire in me. Although it has a few similarities, let me reiterate that it is not laser tag, so a person should not walk in and expect it to be the same kind of game. In fact, I feel a bit like a newbie starting from scratch because my laser tag skills have yet to translate over to the VR realm. Nonetheless, for gamers looking for a unique experience that incorporates laser tag style with real world competition in a simulated environment, the VR at Beyond Reality will be impressive!

So, my evening began with some virtual reality and when I arrived home I got to experience a bit of augmented reality as well. An item I had ordered a few days ago had arrived and I looked forward to seeing if my new Gem Joy augmented reality bracelet would live up to my expectations.

Honestly, I think augmented reality is more likely to be the next evolution in actual laser tag, so that’s why this technology intrigued me. So what does this bracelet do? Well, it pairs with an app on my phone to create some very realistic interactive images that appear to be happening right on my arm. Check out Heli experiencing some reality vs augmented reality!

This is pretty cool! Between virtual reality at the mall and augmented reality at home who needs actual reality? (Oh yeah, Travis and Trog do, lol) Well, laser tag is played in true reality and my next laser tag adventure will be competing in the Zone Nationals, so if you want to see what’s going on in MY reality, keep following along and see where real life takes me next!

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