Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Virtual Reality Games in Hollywood offers immersive VR experiences to a growing market



Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak had Jobs’ parents’ garage.  Sergey Brin and Larry Page had a Stanford dorm room.  Misha Suvorov and Dmitriy Zherebtsov have a small commercial rental in a nondescript building across from the Comcast-NBC Universal Tower in Universal City, California.

There, they are letting regular people try out advanced virtual reality systems on an hourly basis, as an adjunct to their on-going Haunted Recording Studio escape room games, which offer creepy and suspenseful moments as participants attempt to escape from a locked room by solving puzzles and propitiating the spirit of the ghost of the murdered singer which haunts the place by solving the mystery of her death, while honing their team-working skill sets, all inside of an hour.

Misha’s day job is as an actor.  He immigrated to the United States from St. Petersburg, Russia, three years ago.  While working as an actor in Russia, he became involved with “immersive theatre,” performances where the audience participates in the creation of the experience.

During an interview this afternoon immediately adjacent to a “VR spot” where a client was immersing herself in whatever she was seeing in her HTC Vive headset, Misha recounted the evolution and global spread of “escape room” live-action games where a group of people need to work together to solve a mystery and escape from the room they’re trapped in.

According to the actor-entrepreneur, escape games began online in 2007 in Japan, spread to Hungary as a real-world experience in 2011, and then proliferated widely throughout Eastern Europe and Russia. 

They came to the U.S. about two years ago, and, according to Misha, are spreading rapidly because this entertainment format offers people a form of live, theatrical performance that is otherwise on the decline in places like Los Angeles.

The natural synergy between being an actor in immersive theatre and a new paradigm for participatory theatre combined when, in March, 2015, Misha created the Haunted Recording Studio experience.  The actual location opened in February, 2016, at 3611 Cahuenga Blvd. W., Hollywood, CA  90068, in the shadow of Universal City and Vivid Entertainment.

The Haunted Recording Studio experience had good success, Misha said.

In April, 2016, Misha’s friend Dmitriy suggested to him that he might want to evolve from running an escape room to running a “VR spot” where people could use the newly-released virtual reality headsets that provide an electronic immersive experience.  Misha thought this was a good idea, and, after buying the necessary PCs, VR equipment, and monitors, they had Virtual Reality Games up and running by August 1, 2016 with a single spot.  They added a second spot in the same location in September, 2016.

Among the games available for use on the two systems they have available are:  Chamber 19, Destinations, The Lab, and VR Battle Grid.  Access to the HTC Vive headset comes with as much or as little personal assistance as you need.  An hour of time plugged in costs $40 and can be scheduled at http://www.virtualreality-live.com. 

Misha says that one or two hours is plenty long for a VR session.  He also thinks that customers who are spending five or more hours per week in VR at VR Games ought to buy their own units for home use.

He said he felt it was important that VR locations maintain high technical standards for their operations, in order to generate a positive brand identity for the sector.  He spoke of creating a baseline level of performance comparable to high-definition television, or VR HD.  He said that VR experiences engineered from scratch for VR are superior to ones converted for VR from other media.

The creative and aesthetic possibilities of VR have yet to be fully realized, but one place where they might be is a small building near the freeway on the border between Hollywood and Universal City, and on the border between the highest technology available and new levels of artistic expression that can be achieved with it.

You can watch a short Etopia News video interview with Misha and Dmitriy here.

You can schedule a VR experience at Virtual Reality Games here.  To get 10% off the regular price for a VR session, use promo code ETOPIA.

You can schedule an escape game session at the Haunted Recording Studio here.  To get 10% off the regular price for an escape game experience, use promo code ETOPIA.


   

1 comment:

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