Family Fun

A Virtual Amusement Park

Forget Six Flags. Get your thrills at a virtual reality fairground right in midtown Manhattan.

Photo by Kenny Rodriguez, courtesy of VR World NYC

I’m a bad millennial when it comes to technology. Aside from Seamless and GrubHub, I have never ordered anything online (true story), I rely on a physical calendar to keep track of my schedule, and I still haven’t mastered how to copy and paste something via keyboard shortcuts (sad, I know). So naturally, I had never even entertained the idea of trying virtual reality…until I went to VR World in midtown Manhattan.

If you’ve been hanging out under my rock, VR gaming is an immersive computer simulation that makes you feel as if you’re right there inside the game, controlling the action with your own body movements rather than with a joystick or buttons. It’s an expensive hobby if you’re a home player (a quality system and equipment can run as much as $1,500). The three-story VR World was created, according to CEO Yasser Ghanchi, to make the innovative technology more accessible to us common folk (and to, you know, turn a profit).

VR world
Photo by Christian Trippe, courtesy of VR World NYC

Ghanchi said it would probably be best for experience planner Amy Jovel and me to start on the “bunny slopes of VR games before moving onto the more intense ones.” He’s the expert, so we took his advice. He introduced us to our guide, Eric, who set us up with our first game, Fruit Ninja.

Fruit Ninja was my number-one game to play on my iPhone 4 in 2010, so I was very excited to get down and dirty with some three-dimensional watermelons and apples. I put on the head-mounted display (kind of like binoculars strapped to your face) and VR hand controllers. Before the simulation began, I looked down at where my hands would be and I actually saw the digital version of my hands. Not only that, but when I moved my fingers (in real life), my virtual fingers moved, too. The coolest part about this game, though, was how the VR hand controllers turned into the machetes you slice the fruit with (in the game, the goal is to slice fruit but not the bombs). I became a zen fruit-slicing ninja and it was high-key awesome (and it was my favorite game we played).

Next up: Tilt Brush by Google, which immerses you in your own canvas and allows you to create three-dimensional brushstrokes. You can walk and teleport through your art and even change your palette to paint with fire, snow, and stars. Or switch your environment to the universe (the universe!) and play God.

After Tilt Brush, we were done with our warm-up and ready to try something a bit more badass. So Eric led us upstairs to Raw Data, a multiplayer game in which you try to hack into a corporation’s computer system. As with most video games, though, there’s a twist: You have to fight off phalanxes of vicious androids. This game was a blast to play because I was also able to interact with Amy. Our headsets had microphones, so we could talk to each other—and even virtually hug—during the game. I’d be lying if I said if I didn’t forget I was in a busy room in the middle of busy New York City the whole time.

Ever wanted to fight zombies à la The Walking Dead? You can if you play the Brookhaven Experiment at VR World. It’s just like the hit postapocalyptic AMC show, except the zombies in the game are faster, bigger, and scarier; these monsters are not deteriorating humans, they are muscular creatures and way more ravenous.

My second favorite VR game was Richie’s Plank Experience. In this one, you take an elevator to the 80th floor of an office building in a metropolis and then have to walk the plank. At VR World, there is a physical plank set up, which made this little dare all the more adrenaline inducing. Eric told me to jump (there’s a simulation for that). I’m not going to tell you what happened next—because you should go to VR World and experience it yourself—but I will say it had me contemplating what’s real and how we define reality at all.

The last game we played was SuperHot, a minimalist VR video game within a VR video game (think: Inception). It’s a first-person shooter setup where you have to fight the bad guys in red and pick up everything in black. Oh, there are no regenerating health bars, and it speeds up and slows down with your movement.

VR world
Photo by Luis Nieto Dickens, courtesy of VR World NYC

I’ve never been a fan of video games, but VR gaming is something entirely different—and I’m sold. I’m actually going back next weekend; those fruit aren’t going to slice themselves. Next up? Mastering the command-C and -V functions on my keyboard.

Why You Should Go: The future is here and you should embrace it. Experience more than 50 virtual reality experiences, from Fruit Ninja to Climb to Lucky Tale. And did I mention there’s a full bar?

VR World NYC
4 East 34th Street (between Fifth and Madison Avenues), Midtown East
All-day passes are $39

Step into a new realm with us, just steps away from the Empire State Building.