Urban Adventure Chennai

We tried out virtual reality gaming in Chennai

Shoot zombies and aliens, escape haunted horror houses, and ride rollercoasters — all through virtual reality

I’ve always been cocky about my chances of survival in horror movies. But standing here at VR Galaxy, inside a haunted house escape game simulation that is playing out through my virtual reality headset, I’m not so sure. I move forward in the game hesitantly, dodging flying bats and pale screaming banshees. (Yelp!)

It’s a rainy evening, perfect for staying indoors. But what adventures can be had indoors? So I head to VR Galaxy, at Ispahani Centre in Nungambakkam. The centre offers six different types of virtual reality experiences from roller-coaster rides to shooting games and immersion zones such as the VR Escape Horror. The latter is what I go for, first.

How it works

To put it simply, VR (virtual reality) is a simulation done through a computer software, that puts the user in new environments. The 3D simulation takes place through the headset you wear, which also senses your motion. However, it is unadvisable for people prone to migraines and epilepsy.

We tried out virtual reality gaming in Chennai

Priyadarshan, who manages the centre along with B Kamalashri, places a mask over my face before putting the VR headset over my head. The mask has a rectangular hole for my eyes, covering the area around them, including my forehead. “For your hygiene. It’s a fifteen-minute simulation, and people tend to sweat a lot in them,” says Priyadarshan.

He hands me a joystick controller. “If you press this button on the controller, you can move forward in the game. To make turns, you have to turn your body,” he explains. “Just remember one thing, to get the full experience out of this, you need to forget that this is just a game.” A case of suspension of disbelief.

I am transported to an alternate dimension where I am standing outside a dilapidated house that looks like it is from the 18th Century. The doors creak open, and I step inside velvet walls with questionable stains. A gramophone record plays somewhere, and I move towards the sound. “Now you see me… Now you don’t” — a little girl’s sing-song whispers travel from one ear to another. When I move downstairs, I can sense my own jerky thuds — little touches like these make the experience realistic.

We tried out virtual reality gaming in Chennai

In between the game, doors open randomly inviting me to different rooms, from libraries to movie theatres — each holding a horror of its own. Finally, I reach the last corridor but standing at the gate is a demon. As soon as I take one step forward, it rushes to my face, screaming. I scream back at it, and shut my eyes tight. Just when I can’t take it anymore, a scroll appears: You survived.

Check these places
  • VR Galaxy at Ispahani Centre, Nungambakkam; Mayajaal, ECR; and Blur, Sathyam Cinemas. Call 9500008280
  • VR World at Grand Mall, VGP Selva Nagar, Velachery. Call 7550000300
  • Also try the VR pod at the Gaming Zone in VR Mall, Anna Nagar. Call 33705555

“One of our customers got so scared, he threw away his headset. We still have to replace that one,” Priyadarshan informs me, after I take mine off. Despite the horror game, most of the people who come to VR Galaxy are children and teenagers, accompanied by their parents. The horror game is the only one they do not recommend for children — the rest are quite child-friendly. Two brothers, under the age of 10, are shooting away at zombies, as we speak.

“We are also working on an interactive multiplayer game, where you can see the other player in VR and communicate with them, irrespective of which centre you are playing from,” says Bhuvana Ganesh. Bhuvana and her husband Ganesh KG started VR Galaxy in 2017. So much was the demand that they managed to open five centres in two years. “We work with three developers,” she says, explaining that many of the games are originals.

We tried out virtual reality gaming in Chennai

VR gaming is on the rise in India, however, for those who are not regular gamers and have not invested in headsets and controllers, such centres come in handy. “Our next plan is to create an arcade with a café. We want to develop as many games as possible in one pod, so that resources are not wasted,” she says.

In the sky

After the thrill of the horror house, I look for something tamer. The rollercoaster/soccer pod is popular among children. In this, you get to either experience a rollercoaster ride in a Jurassic Park-esque world populated by dinosaurs, or you can play soccer (you can manipulate the ball only through headbutts).

However, I go for the Adv-walk. The concept is simple: You are on a hot air balloon that has caught fire, and to escape it, you need to walk on a plank to reach another balloon, but you are 5,000 feet up in the air. The set-up is such that you need to walk on an actual wooden plank that is two feet wide. A harness, hanging from the ceiling is placed around you, and travels with you as you move. The sensor in front captures your movement.

We tried out virtual reality gaming in Chennai

Once the headset is on, I see rocky mountains, deep gorges and blue skies. A bald eagle keeps me company. The plank I could have walked across in a jiffy is now suddenly making my knees tremble; I lose my balance and the harness saves me from a fall. If I closed my eyes, I could walk easily, but Priyadarshan is beside me, instructing me to look around and describe the surroundings.

Having crossed the plank, I call it a day and make space for the children waiting in line. The whole reason VR works is because of the human ability to believe in something despite knowing it’s not real. Delusions, sometimes, can be good.

VR games start at ₹150, and prices vary across centres.

In this column, we hunt for adrenaline-filled activities in and around Chennai

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Printable version | Feb 20, 2020 9:21:30 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/chennai/vr-virtual-reality-gaming-experiences-in-chennai/article28859110.ece

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