Virtual Reality Entertainment Center at AREA 151…
It’s tough enough keeping at bay the zombies, who lurch forth from the shadows of a dystopian hellscape, but when the enraged, mutant elephant comes a-charging, the situation gets serious in a hurry.
Luckily, you’re armed. Also fortunate: It’s not real.
However, it’s easy to forget it isn’t real and that’s just part of the fun at Area 151, a virtual reality (VR) entertainment center in downtown Redding. The zombies and the elephant are just some of the features in “Safe Night,” a game set in 2041 that pits one to four players against all manner of monsters.
It’s one of nine “experiences” customers can sign up for at Area 151, says owner Addam Yount, who moved the year-old business from Shasta Lake to Redding in October. The experiences, each lasting from 45 minutes to an hour, are primarily shooting-based since they’re popular and lend themselves to tournament play, Yount says.
For the uninitiated, VR gaming combines headsets, vests and complex software to put users deep into a computer-generated, three-dimensional environment. An at-home VR experience is available but the headsets are costly and physical movement can be limited.
At Area 151, “it’s really immersive for people to come and play,” Yount says. “This is stuff you can’t calibrate a home VR set to do. It’s a super unique experience. It really feels like you are there.”
The VR experience is a natural progression for “gamers,” video game players who use computer monitors to build cities, battle extraterrestrials, travel through fantastical lands, engage in combat and a host of other activities.
An added plus: Area 151 has the space and technology to allow for multiple players in the same game. “We can have up to 16 players at a time so you can do eight vs. eight tournaments,” Yount says. “There are a lot of people who come in and play. It’s a varying customer base. A lot of adults, maybe an office party, and we do a ton of birthday parties for kids.”
Area 151 offers a spacious, wall-to-wall open arena that provides plenty of room for freedom of movement. Each headset is calibrated to a player’s height and the software continuously monitors each player’s movements and location. “There are rules in place to keep you from running into walls,” Yount says with a laugh.
After a 45-minute session, a lot of players have managed to work up a sweat. “There’s a lot of running around and room to move around. If you’re being chased by a zombie elephant, you have to actually move,” Yount says.
Yount acquires his games from Siberia-based Another World. The developers design and edit the games and provide the software that Yount downloads into his headsets. New games are released yearly and Yount has exclusive rights to each one he purchases. They’re not available for home use or by competing businesses.
“I have nine titles now. ‘Kernel’ is the latest. It’s like futuristic laser tag. It’s super realistic. You have to reload your own gun, put a new magazine in … a lot of real-life tactical skills,” Yount says. “It’s an avenue of release for gamers, a stress relief. I feel like everybody has a zombie itch to scratch, but I totally understand people who aren’t into the gun thing and I try to cater to them.”
For those looking for slightly less confrontational entertainment, Area 151 offers up “Cubes,” a multiplayer game that incorporates elements of the hugely popular “Minecraft” video game. The game “Ghost Mansion” is “cartoony in nature with no blood. You vacuum up ghosts. It’s not aggressive at all,” Yount adds.
Customers have made a variety of requests, from racing and golf games to “Star Wars” adventures. “People are always offering suggestions and as I grow, I can add more licenses,” Yount says.
Yount, a 25-year-old Redding native, says he grew up playing video games and says he had hours of family bonding over playing “Super Smash Bros.” on a Nintendo 64 console. He’s now set his sights on offering bonding experiences for others in the virtual world. •
Area 151 • 1518 Market St., Redding
(530) 395-9746 • www.area151vr.com