Just 20 minutes outside of Chicago sits MassVR, the first-of-its-kind virtual reality Esports arena. Unlike any other VR in the world, MassVR offers a next-generation Esports game where players are not only competing and socializing, they’re also being active by continuously walking, running, and jumping while playing the game. This is changing the virtual reality narrative from a sedentary activity to an active experience.
MassVR has developed the first player-vs-player virtual reality experience where participants can interact and immerse themselves in 32,000 square feet of free roam, unrestricted movement playing space – four arenas each hosting 8,000 square feet. This VR gaming platform brings the fun of video gaming to life as it turns real space into a large-scale, playable arena that feels as close to reality as one can get. The location also hosts spacious banquet rooms available for parties and corporate events. They have even hosted events for A-list celebrities, such as Chance the Rapper.
Players gear up with a VR headset, a backpack, and a game controller – which was developed by MassVR –and are then transported into the virtual realm, where up to eight players can engage in a team-vs-team battle called VR Champions. This is a first-person shooter game that immerses players in a massive virtual map where they team up to destroy the enemy team’s power core. Powered by Epic’s Unreal Engine, MassVR has developed a proprietary “1:n” playspace giving the players thousands of square feet of physical playspace while expanding that into a larger virtual world. In-game elements – including ziplining, teleporting, and use of jetpacks – enable players to go beyond the limitations of the physical world.
Aside from VR Champions, MassVR hosts Mass Smash (Smash Brothers) Tournaments, Knockout Nights Tournaments, and Boot Camps to teach new users how to utilize the equipment and technology. MassVR also hosts parties and events, from birthday parties to corporate outings.
“We have developed cutting-edge technology right here in Chicago,” says MassVR Founder and CEO, Chris Lai. “Large-scale, team competitive, immersive gaming. Whether you’re a hardcore gamer or looking for a new and engaging team-building activity, this is something anyone can enjoy.”
Mr. Lai is the founder and CEO of MassVR, and the co-founder and co-CEO of SafeSpeed, MassVR’s former parent company. SafeSpeed is a successful technology company currently employing 118 people. Chris’s passion for gaming goes back to his undergraduate days at the University of Illinois as a computer science major, where he raised $1M to start a gaming company with 20 employees. Alums from his early efforts went on to architect major game titles including Halo and Deus Ex.
Currently operating as a pop-up through December 2019, MassVR is located at 4847 Old Orchard Shopping Center, Skokie, Illinois 60077, just 20 minutes outside of Chicago. The game is available to players ages 12 and up and is $27 per person. Games are live-streamed on Twitch and include live sports commentators. MassVR has been featured on ABC 7 News, WGN News, NBC Chicago, The Mancow Show, WCIU’s The Jam, V Respawn, American Express Business Magazine, Yahoo! News, VR Real Life, and TEDx.
The overall experience at MassVR is unlike anything I have ever experienced or participated in. Being new to virtual reality, it took some getting used to everything, which seemed to happen rather quickly. Once you get used to everything, it is one entertaining and wild ride. Before my friend and I could do anything involving VR, we watched a five minute introduction video that described what MassVR was, as well as what to expect and how to handle the gear. The video was not very helpful at first, because the sound was muted and the narrator spoke very quickly. We had to request to watch the video a second time to absorb all the information, which felt overwhelming at first. It would have been helpful with more human given advice and tips.
After the intro video, my friend and I were ushered to computers to “register” our names and pick teams that we would be playing on when playing the VR game. After that, VR experts helped us get set up with our gear to start playing: battery power packs, lasers, and the oculus, which is like a pair of goggles, and where you see and become in the entire other world that is virtual reality. The staff were amazingly patient and helpful as they put themselves into the VR before the game began, to assist my friend and me in learning how to use our gear, and maneuvering throughout the virtual realm itself. The staff were perfect guides that walked us through a tutorial before we all started playing.
The playing areas themselves are huge-thousands of square feet-with padded columns throughout. Even though it was a safe, open space, we were immersed in the world of virtual reality, sometimes to hesitate walking on solid ground (that appeared to be a low drop, a warp circle or a zipline adventure). The game was not only a good workout as you are moving around constantly, but it was also a fresh perspective with this type of gaming. It was nostalgic for my friend to go back to his first person shooter game days remembering past experiences with first person shooters.
The VR does its magic and you get what you pay for: you are completely convinced you are in another world. It was definitely shocking being in a multilevel virtual environment while we were actually on a flat service in the space itself. However, once we got used to everything and got the hang of the whole experience, it became second nature. The experience I had in the VR game and world definitely helped me face fears and challenges such as heights and much more.
People with past experience playing first person shooter games will love this MassVR experience. Hurry on over to experience it for yourself before it leaves at the end of the year!
Photos: Jennifer Lunz unless otherwise noted
For more information on MassVR, or to book visit the website.