The floor is decked out with zigzags. I pull down my VR visor. There's a flash, then a fuchsia frog is looking up at me on a golden pathway.
In late September, the Cleveland Magazine squad headed to Cleveland’s local VR original, Boss VR Arena. The world we'd enter first was Engineerium. Few words describe it, but “tiki utopia” comes close.
“This might be weirder than the zombies,” managing editor Ron Ledgard says.
I can hear him crystal-clear through my microphone-equipped headset. We’re suspended in air on floating sidewalks that curve and twist. Despite recalling I’m in a spacious room without obstacles, I spread my arms to keep balance and take baby steps.
As our avatars hover along the paths, I begin to take in the surreal graphics around me, fed by the aforementioned, seemingly arbitrary zigzags. They enable the game to keep track of where my teammates are.
“I can’t do it,” associate editor Anthony Elder says, peering over the edge. Senior editor Annie Nickoloff doesn’t hesitate. She walks off into the blue oblivion and hangs in space. I lean to my right and see a red grid. I step back and it disappears. I’m a foot from an actual wall.
I’ve forgotten all about my gear (visor, vest, computer backpack) by the time we’re transported to the next game. Undead Arena is an apocalyptic game show that could take place on Sakaar. My teammates’ avatars look primal in battle gear. I don’t have much time to think about what I might look like. The zombies are like emails: They just keep coming.
Elder’s inner gamer kicks in, and Nickoloff isn’t too bad either, reprimanding the undead villains with a “No!” as if they’re cats on a kitchen counter.
I had been nervous while previewing the game. The trailer gave us tips on how to explode barrels and change weapons, but all I could think was, shoot, I’m going to get killed.
But during play, my index finger finds the button to switch weapons easily. My assault rifle transforms into a shotgun, then a crossbow. I use all three, and while I like the dull thud arrows make in virtual, undead flesh, my favorite’s the shotgun.
Warnings pop up when you’re close to another player or a wall, so if you’re not too absorbed in the slaying, you can reorient yourself. Despite my reservation, I only die twice. I’m also pleased with my 25 headshots, though I’m wary standing beside assistant art director Abigail Archer, who had the most at 35.
VR worlds are exquisite, but what makes them richer are the people you play them with.
That night I dream of killing zombies. I might have to go back to Boss VR Arena to make sure they stay dead.
We tried it, you can too. Check out these three spots for Cleveland VR.
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