Instead of sitting on your couch doing whatever reality-avoiding, wash-rinse-repeat routine you've already done for the nth time, you can be sitting on someone else's couch doing something much cooler. You can play VR (virtual reality) games. Right now in Shanghai. At a place called HIVE VR.
If you're not sure what VR Gaming is, just YouTube it. Though, nothing you watch on your laptop can prepare you for the experience of strapping in for a round of Resident Evil. Let’s just say it’s mind-blowing and absolutely terrifying at the same time.
HIVE VR positions itself as the first virtual reality arcade in Shanghai. On arrival, it might seem like an amateur operation, given that it’s located on the top floor of an unassuming residential building on Zhaojiabang Lu, set up in a typical three-room high-rise apartment. But fret not, enter to be entertained.
The staff are helpful and endlessly knowledgable, led by Nancy, introducing the hardware and boasting some serious equipment—some of which hasn’t even hit the market yet—including the latest versions of HTC VIVE, Oculus Rift, Sony Playstation VR, Idealens and Samsung Gear.
HIVE has over 200 games. For RMB100 an hour, doors (virtual mind scapes) will open up to entire multiverses of virtual adventure, ranging from shoot-em-up horrors in zombie-infested cities to surreal explorations of the ocean floor. Sessions are RMB100 on weekdays and RMB120 on weekends, but if you sign up for a membership (RMB300) then those prices are RMB80 and RMB100, respectively.
All the action takes place within a 2x3-meter virtual box, which they mark with a large IKEA rug. If it's your first time, you'll be advised to take it slow. Trust us, don't be ambitious. Nancy says only one person has thrown up so far, and that's because they had a big meal before playing. So like any sport, rest up and digest first. There's also a fully-stocked fridge with beer and other beverages for just a few kuai more than Family Mart.
They take group bookings for birthday parties or corporate events. Children seven and older need to be accompanied by parents and the children are required to rest between sets, and no kids under seven years old.
Here's some of the games you can play at HIVE:
If this is your first time VR-ing, HIVE will start you off with some basic, undemanding titles to break you in. Your best bet for an easy introduction to the virtual universe awaiting you is The Blu, a soothing experience which allows you to explore the depths of the ocean without having to deal with claustrophobia and the lack of oxygen. This photo of a gigantic 3D jellyfish doesn't even begin to do Blu justice. There's also smartphone staple Fruit Ninja. Slice and dice away. And the Google Earth VR experience, which allows you to take a stroll around your childhood neighborhood.
This is the only reason we're here to be honest. Zombie arcade shooter Brookhaven sets the pulse racing and forces players to recoil in fear from the walking dead. If you’re a true thrill-seeker who’s after a pure, unadulterated, balls-to-the-wall horror experience, then Resident Evil: Biohazard should do the trick. Wander a gore-stained haunted house while a possessed tween chases you with a chainsaw. Jump scares galore. You don’t want to try this one out alone. And if horror and gore isn't your thing, be prepared for at least a solid week of nightmares.
Try your hand at archery with Long Bow, a surprisingly rigorous workout. The aim of the game is to keep maurauding savages away from your castle. It's a less intense alternative to the hellscape that is Resident Evil. Then, there's Ski Simulator, which is pretty much exactly what it sounds like. Warning: HIVE VR advises you to get a buddy to stand behind you for this one, as players are prone to falling over—dodging rocks and trees as you're going down a hill trying not to "die" requires you to sway quite a bit.
Just when you think VR games couldn't top it, they blow you away with their secret weapon. Tilt Brush is Paint on steroids. It's a dreamlike experience, and you can create virtually (hah) anything from garment design to composing a 3D model of the Death Star. You can rotate your creation, enlarge or shrink, and walk through it. You can paint with different kind of brushes: light, stars, bubbles, lightning, fire...you know, the basics.
You can even save your creation or take a video of it being made. Here's Disney animator Glen Keane working the Tilt Brush. You can also view and submit art at the Tilt Brush gallery. These people have dedicated days to provide you with this new form of immersive art. Tilt Brush is by Google, so VPN is required to view the gallery.
HIVE VR is founded by Nancy Yao (pictured left) from Luoyang, China and Nick Kiewik from the Netherlands. Nancy is usually at studio, while Nick is usually busy being an engineer during the day. They opened this place a year ago. How is this place not fully booked?
Well, we're assuming people who game here didn't want to tell anyone about it because it would be packed. Sorry. Not sorry.
What: HIVE VR
Address: Rm. 2001, 20/F, 288 Zhaojiabang Lu (near Jiashan Lu), 肇嘉浜路288号鼎新大楼20楼2001室 (近嘉善路)
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