Worlds Away

T he name of the game is disconcerting: I Expect You to Die. But that’s exactly what happens. The first time, I last a minute or so. I’m sitting in a car parked inside the hold of a cargo plane. I figure out right away how to shift from Park into Drive, but nothing happens because I don’t yet have the key, which I soon find resting on top of the sun visor. I grab the key, stick it in the ignition and turn it, but that alerts the system that an intruder is present: me. It attempts to scan my eye with a laser beam and then to zap me, but I duck. I’m feeling pretty proud of myself, until I see the ticking bomb at my feet. Rather than taking the time to follow detonation instructions, I do the simplest thing that comes to mind: I roll down the window and toss it out—into the cargo hold, where it explodes. Game over.

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I’m sitting in one of the virtual reality game areas at The Spot, a new VR lounge in Orange, where you can put on a headset, grab some hand controls and choose from hundreds of games ranging from the tame—a walk through a museum to see art history’s greatest hits—to the terrifying—an Exorcist game that owner Marileydi Dorival says even the adults won’t play when they’re alone. The eight-by-eight-foot play area, open in the front and separated from other similar areas by curtains, is equipped with a foam floor, a VR headset, handheld controls and a screen so your friends can watch you flounder around, scream, laugh, sweat and lose yourself in another world.

Couches and chairs arranged throughout the wide-open space are meant for spectators, and though you can’t listen in on what your player friend is hearing through their headphones, you can watch what they’re seeing on a screen mounted above them. It’s almost as fun, for example, to watch employee Naomi Champagne slashing with her sword in Beat Saber or boxing a virtual opponent in Creed: Rise to Glory as it is to be inside the VR world myself. Champagne crouches, jabs, shouts and eventually raises one arm in victory. Knockout!

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On my second attempt in the car within the cargo hold, I last a little bit longer. I’m smart enough not to turn the key in the ignition until I’ve read the instruction cards tucked in each door pocket (one has to do with detonating the bomb) and opened the glove compartment to discover wads of cash and a jackknife. Then I manage to explode the bomb inside the car—definitely not a winning move.

There’s plenty of real excitement in this virtual world: race cars that speed down a highway at 200 miles per hour, a rollercoaster that takes you through jungles and caves, a haunting adventure through a subterranean world while armed only with a lantern and a map. But there’s also a cooking game where you take instructions from robots (who will be annoyed by your incompetence when you burn the food), vacation simulations and the aforementioned museum visit. Even here, the gentle elevator ride mimics the movement of a real elevator, and its glass bottom may give you vertigo. At Dorival’s suggestion, I walk around a couple of gallery corners to see the famous Terracotta Army of Qin Shi Huang and hop down into the tomb with them.

Dorival, her husband Darison and his friend Joseph Champagne—Naomi’s brother—saw a wide-open VR market and had the technological knowledge to handle it; the two men built the computers used to power the games themselves. The Spot opened in August in an Orange strip mall, and for now, reservations are still easy to come by. The venue is family-friendly during the daytime, with a recommendation that children be at least 10 to play; later on, after 8 p.m., customers are welcome to bring their own alcoholic beverages, and takeout menus are provided for local restaurants willing to deliver. The whole space can also be reserved for parties and corporate events.

The cost to play is $45 for a 55-minute session or $25 for 25 minutes, which can be shared by up to five people. Race VR, which simulates driving a race car, is $50, or $35 for a half session. And then there’s Motion VR at $60 or $35. Dorival says that while there are several other VR lounges in Connecticut, only The Spot offers Motion VR, where you belt into a standing treadmill that allows you to not only manipulate hand controls but also to “walk, run, strafe, make quick turns and interact … in a way that has not been possible before,” as the website puts it.

You’ll have to get behind the wheel of your actual car and drive considerably less than 200 miles per hour to get to The Spot. But once you strap on your headset, who knows where you’ll end up?

The Spot VR Lounge
385 Boston Post Rd, Orange (map)
Mon & Wed 1-9:30pm, Thurs-Fri 1-11pm, Sat 8pm-midnight, Sun 11am-10pm
(203) 632-9651 | TheSpotVRLounge@gmail.com
www.thespotvrlounge.checkfront.site

Written by Kathy Leonard Czepiel. Image 4, featuring Marileydi Dorival, photographed by Kathy Leonard Czepiel.

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About Kathy Leonard Czepiel

View all posts by Kathy Leonard Czepiel
Kathy Leonard Czepiel is Daily Nutmeg's associate editor. She's also a fiction writer, writing teacher and book club troubleshooter. Her perfect New Haven day would involve lots of sunshine, a West Rock hike, a concert on the green and a coffee milkshake.

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