“Who you gonna believe, me or your own eyes?” – your brain. If you’ve ever experienced virtual reality technology, you may have quietly asked yourself this. When using a virtual reality simulator to transport into a new digital world, your knowledge of current real world events is continually tested; mine sure was at VRX and Esports centre! A series of virtual challenges and experiences could leave you ultimately trying to come to grips with what’s real and what’s not.
VRX: Jamaica’s first Virtual Reality Centre
This pioneer virtual reality experience centre in Sovereign Village, Portmore is reportedly the first of its kind in Jamaica and the Caribbean! This is the main sponsor of the Jamaica Esports Initiative (JEI). With over 70 wired and wireless experiences available in their catalogue, making a selection was lengthier than I anticipated. What helped is the staff, who will recommend simulation options based on popularity and the type of experience(s) you wish to immerse in – for me that was a cockroach massacre, broken chairlift , and a zombie apocalypse.
Earphones, a virtual reality headset, and hand controllers will be fitted on you by a staff member as they provide instructions for the selected experience. A bordered area is maintained both in the real and virtual worlds to ensure the player doesn’t collide with any other person or object. The 5 – 10-minute simulations inspire animated reactions of all kinds from players, to the amusement of seated spectators waiting their turn. With senses of sight and hearing completely immersed in the virtual reality environment, I couldn’t hear or see the other waiting patrons snickering at my dramatics, and I definitely can’t say I blame them.
VRX Virtual Reality Popular Picks
Cockroach Massacre (tests fear of cockroaches)
I’m not particularly afraid of cockroaches but like many Jamaicans (/persons), once they come close, I get out of the way! Imagine an army of cockroaches coming towards you and instead of a trusted sweeping bug spray, you have to eliminate them with sharply-aimed bullets. I can only imagine the duress that someone with an actual fear of roaches would be under with that experience; during my visit, another player who wanted to face the fear asked for the virtual reality game to be stopped mid-way.
Zombie Apocalypse (tests fear of horror)
The zombie horror experience also tests your sharp shooting (and reloading) skills. It really builds up anxiety as you reluctantly await the undead charging at you to get a chance to send them to their grave for a second time. Bullets run out? Get ready for them to get up close and personal while you plunge a knife into them as you literally watch your back for more.
Broken Chair Lift (tests fear of heights)
The chair lift challenge surprised me. Typically I’m not afraid of heights either, unless maybe I have to jump off a cliff like I did at Rockhouse Hotel, but the falling chair stressed-me-out! This seated experience includes a broken chair lift tossing you all over a cityscape. Even though I “knew” I wasn’t moving, it still left me shutting my eyes and holding my head as my belly bottom (stomach) dropped.
When I wasn’t playing, I also enjoyed watching other people react to the simulations. To make it more amusing, you can see what they’re experiencing on a screen mounted above them on the wall. There is also 1 car simulation available by the waiting area, equipped with a steering wheel, pedals, and car seat. What I found impressive was the age range: children, teenagers, and adults were all enjoying the virtual reality technology at the centre, whether they were playing or spectating. I also love that these activities are inclusive of the special needs community, for example someone in a wheelchair or with hearing impairment would still be able to partake and enjoy!
What is Virtual Reality?
Virtual Reality is a three-dimensional (3D) computer-generated simulation that can be interacted with in a seemingly real or physical way. The term is sometimes confused with augmented reality, but there are stark differences between the 2.
What’s the Difference between Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality?
Just so there’s no confusion, augmented reality adds computer-generated elements to a real-world environment through the use of an electronic device, as opposed to creating a whole digital environment like in virtual reality. Virtual reality replaces reality by imposing a new environment, while augmented reality adds to it by projecting information on top of what you’re already seeing. Popular examples of augmented reality are Snapchat and Instagram lenses (like the one I developed for my followers), and the Pokemon Go game.
Jamaica Esports Initiative
The Jamaica Esports Initiative is the national governing body for esports in Jamaica. Their mandated tasks include:
- developing competitive video games (i.e. esports)
- creating guidelines for hosting eSports tournaments.
- encouraging eSports skill development
- providing resources for the Dr. Birdz national team to participate in international events
- establishing Jamaica as a recognized Esports entity in the global community
Dr. Birdz: Jamaica’s National Esports Team
The not-for-profit organization lays the foundation for youth to become engaged and recognized in the global eSport community by fostering their talent development. The aim to become the driving force behind Jamaica’s eSports tourism has already began with the inception of the Dr. Birdz national team and ongoing hosted events.
The Jamaican-based team is comprised of the highest ranked players from many parishes (and countries) earning their spot through qualifiers in their respective game or discipline. In 2019, the team’s 7 members traveled to EVO 2019 tournament in Las Vegas for the first time and ranked in the top 10% globally! Some of the games Dr. Birdz compete in include:
- Street Fighter V
- Mortal Kombat 11
- Smash Bros Ultimate
- Samurai Showdown
- Call Of Duty
- Apex Legends
- League Of Legends
- eFootball PES
Girl’s Play: Esports and Video Game Workshop
The Jamaica Esports Initiative also provides workshops and labs for the development of those interested in the video game industry. Their workshops are designed to dig deep into the world of video games and E-Sports, with tutoring by the best talent from the local and global industry. They’re geared to also help neutrals identify where they fit in to help pursue the industry.
I was humbled to be invited as a guest speaker for their first ‘Girls Play’ gamer girl workshop aimed at empowering girls through E-sports! My segment included females’ value to the gaming industry and how they may convert their passion into profit. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that females are highly portrayed in the video game industry as women of power!
The intimate event included informative presentations, interactive activities, food and refreshments, and of course gaming. The enthused teenage attendees had experience in animation, game design, and coding! I was impressed as I listened to the conversations of these young ladies, talking about areas the “typical” teenage girl (or person) has no knowledge of. Visit J.E.I’s website to learn about upcoming events and opportunities.
Though I’m not an avid gamer, I do occasionally relate to common gamer struggles – pained controller fingers, lack of sleep to finally complete a level, and moving the controller all over the place knowing it doesn’t affect the on-screen action lol.
What’s your general experience playing virtual games of any kind?
Enjoy the latest in-room scale virtual reality experiences at Jamaica’s premier VR and E-sports centre.
Contact 876-649-9025 / 876-463-0548 and firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit Sovereign Village at Braeton Parkway.
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