Patrons enter a new dimension at Lacombe biz

Sebastian Oana’s virtual reality-based business has found a curious home.

Sebastian Oana’s virtual reality-based business has found a curious home.

It’s horse-and-buggy-era building meets 21st century gaming technology at The Gallery Virtual Reality Arcade in downtown Lacombe.

If there are any ghosts in the 1906 M&J Hardware Building, where he is set up on the second floor, they would be completely baffled by what’s going on.

Even to modern-day people, describing virtual reality falls short of the experience.

“I try to sell it, and talk it up to people, but I can’t. You have to put the (headgear) on, and that’s it.

“Once you put in on, then you’ll know.”

Only open a week, he has already had people stop in four times to immerse themselves in virtual reality worlds thanks to high-tech ski-goggle like headgear and controllers, and a very powerful gaming computer.

Oana, who also owns the Longhorn Southern Barbecue food truck, was pondering using the space as a restaurant.

But he decided he didn’t want to commit full-time to a restaurant, so he turned an interest in gaming into a new venture.

For $25 an hour, customers can forget their day-to-day troubles and get up and close and personal with a blue whale, plant a flag on the top of Mount Everest, or fight off hordes of well-armed assailants, among numerous other scenarios.

Oana says his personal favourite, is a game that allows you to soar like Superman.

“It feels like you’re flying,” he marvels. “When you let go, and you drop, you feel like you’re falling.”

Taking a virtual reality journey is an amazing experience as this Red Deer Advocate reporter learned.

Beginning with an orientation tutorial, overseen by an amiable robot, that takes place, in what seems to all your senses, a cavernous room.

An undersea adventure that brings you within inches of a virtual blue whale is awe-inspiring as is a journey into space. A first-person shooter game got the adrenaline flowing.

Oana says he’s already seen all age ranges try out the system. A 66-year-old man, and his 13-year-old grandson, recently tried it out, and bonded over their shared experiences, which crossed the generation gap.

The virtual reality arcade has three stations. Oana has outfitted the gallery with some old tools, store fittings, a creepy reclining dental or medical chair, and electronics of yesteryear to give it a “Fallout feel,” he said, referring to a popular series of post-apocalyptic video games.

To play book an appointment by calling Oana at 403-348-9466, or check him out on Facebook.

pcowley@bprda.wpengine.com

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