NORMAL — The groan of a zombie made Alyssa Woodrun spin around and peer into the darkness. As her flashlight shined on the approaching creature, Woodrun screamed, dropped to the ground and pulled the virtual reality device off her head.
Immediately she was out of the post-apocalyptic video game and back to Normal, in the middle of a virtual reality demo hosted by Immersion Arcade.
Immersion Arcade, 1304 Cross Creek Drive, above Swingers Grille, is one of two virtual reality video gaming arcades that have opened in the Twin Cities this summer. The second, iVirtex, is located at 304 N. Main St., Suite B, Normal.
“It was really cool,” said Woodrun, of Towanda, after finishing the demo. “I was expecting the quality to be great but I wasn’t expecting it to be that clear. It totally freaked me out.”
Virtual reality, or VR, is a computer-generated simulation of a three-dimensional space where players can interact with items using special headsets, hand sensors and infrared positional tracking.
Brian Jesse of Bloomington and Derick Downey of Normal are co-owners of Immersion Arcade. Jesse said virtual reality is the “birth of a new medium.”
“During one play-through, I stepped out in front of a speeding dump truck and had a visceral reaction even though I knew it wasn’t real,” said Jesse. “That’s exactly what happened to people during the birth of cinema; when viewers saw a train coming at the screen, they all ducked.”
Fighting the undead isn’t the only option in virtual reality games. Players can defend a castle through archery, dance to music by blocking incoming notes and battle robots.
For those who aren’t fond of video games, there are programs called “experiences.” In those, players can explore environments like a mountainside in Washington, walk the streets of a foreign city, swim beside a whale in the…