Virtual reality is regularly touted as the future of all media. Soon, everyone will spend days wearing a headset, living out their fantasies in true-to-life simulations. Or so they say. Cynics like myself don’t necessarily feel VR is a true medium in itself – it only augments what we already have.
However, I’d never experienced true VR. I had used a rudimentary version involving a cheap cardboard headset and a smartphone, but I’d never tried out the high-end variety. This is why I jumped at the chance to visit Playdium VR, a “virtual reality experience studio” in Causeway Bay, which became the first of its kind in Hong Kong when it opened in July.
For retro gamers, it’s a clean, contemporary update on those old smoky game arcades. It offers a modern social setting where gamers can congregate, team up and battle it out over a selection of ever-changing VR releases. But to find out whether the games are any good – VR games have been considered everything from fads to life-changing experiences – there was only one way to find out.
I visited Playdium on a weekday afternoon, welcomed by owners Darren Lo and Albert Yau. It’s fairly small, housed in one of those upstairs Causeway Bay spaces commonly used for independent stores and cafes. The space is effectively managed, split into thirds: one area dedicated to two Virtuix Omni motion-platform machines, another to exclusive machines from China and Japan (including a boxing ring), and the third, an open multiplayer space with green tape marking out floor squares.
“Virtual reality is a trend, and it’s a trend that can’t be ignored. In nine months of travelling to the US, Japan and other parts of Asia, we found a good selection of titles and machines available,” says Yau.
“In Hong Kong, people are adaptable to new concepts, including VR, and they’re willing to spend on superior entertainment. That’s what we’re trying…