A Virtual Reality Arcade Isn't Going to Be Science Fiction Much Longer

Flickr / Maurizio Pesce
The HTC Vive virtual-reality headset in action.
Lakewood entrepreneur Victoria Merchant wanted to create a fun, family-friendly alternative to late-night bowling alleys. In February, she had a lightbulb moment: virtual reality.

"VR has been on the back burner lately, I think," says Merchant. "Developers and makers wanted to go straight to consumers, but it didn't work as anticipated, because the equipment is still expensive."

Instead, Merchant saw virtual-reality arcades, where customers would be able to try out and enjoy the latest, most advanced VR technology, as the next step in VR entertainment – without the prohibitive costs.  

The entrepreneur commissioned Nathan Hostetler, a techie acquaintance, to build computers for a soon-to-launch Denver VR arcade. After trying the virtual-reality equipment, Hostetler signed on.

This weekend, the duo will celebrate the grand opening of Head Games VR, the first virtual-reality arcade in the greater Denver area. At Head Games VR, there will be three large play stations, where customers of all ages and backgrounds will be able to use HTC Vive headsets to engage in everything from experiential virtual reality to avid video gaming. More anxious customers might want to avoid games like Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes, where partners help instruct a friend to diffuse a bomb – a terrifying scenario in virtual reality.

Head Games VR / Facebook
 In the future, the entrepreneur hopes the facility will grow to include eight HTC Vive headsets, so friends can play four vs. four multiplayer games. Additionally, a "mixed reality" room is in the works, where customers will enter a green room and film themselves inside of a virtual world. Merchant also hopes to offer this room as a facility for developers to film demos for their games.

"We don't want this to be a typical mall arcade," she says. "We want people to enjoy coming here with friends and family, and we want to take suggestions from customers; we want to create a community."

On Saturday, July 1, Head Games VR will host an opening-night after-party for Comic Con, which runs June 30 to July 2. At the event, there will be giveaways, raffles, a tournament, and five minutes on the equipment per customer, free of charge. Game developers, including Colorado's LIMN Interactive, will demo new titles.

The arcade opens its doors officially on July 2.

Head Games VR's Comic Con After Party, 8 p.m., Saturday, July 1, 9655 West Colfax Avenue, Unit C, Lakewood. For more information, go to Head Game VR's Facebook page.