TJ: A few months ago, Dara and I we were walking down Fairfax near the Grove and came across a really interestingly painted building that had no signage on it whatsoever.
Dara: But it looked really cool and we saw signs that said “IMAX VR” so we peeked our head in and discovered a sign indicating that it was in fact an IMAX VR Theatre.
TJ: We didn’t go in right away that day because we didn’t have the time, but we did some digging and found out that it was the first ever arcade-like VR center from IMAX. They just recently opened another one in Manhattan, but the Los Angeles location was their flagship testing grounds.
Dara: Super psyched, we ended up getting tickets for the next weekend, and boy was it amazing. The initial hallway is totally unassuming with just their logo, but then you turn the corner and it gets super cool and high tech super fast.
The lobby is a room with screens on one side going through posters and video clips of all the VR experiences they have. They’re each about 10-15 minutes long and are categorized by their level of intensity and immersion.
Some are pure games and some are more like cinematic experiences, but all of them use state of the art VR equipment – including HTC Vives, rumble packs, hand controllers, and, importantly, trackers.
The ticket prices vary between experiences but I’d say they’re an average of $10-15 each. The first time we went we just did one experience – Raw Data – but when I went again this past weekend with our friend Heather, I also did the Mummy experience.
So after you use an iPad to buy your tickets with an attendant, you go over to a wall of iPads to sign the necessary waivers and then wait in the holding area for your allotted time (because of the limited availability – they’re timed tickets), where you also watch the safety and information video.
Pro-Tip: Buy tickets online ahead of time if you’re going on a Saturday or Sunday as those are the most popular times and waits may be long. We were lucky that we went first before it was popular and then the second time was on a weekday morning.
After you watch the safety video you get to go into the pod lobby, where the “game pods” are located. It’s a really cool room and they let you walk around and see what others are up to in their pods before getting into yours.
Each pod is a roughly 10 feet by 10 feet square that is customized to the experience you’ve chosen. Some have trackers and rumble packs, others are just seats and headsets. For multi-player seated experiences, pods are shared, but usually you have one to yourself.
For Raw Data (version one) you’re in the pod wearing headphones, a VR headset, and a rumblepack. You’re also given two remotes – the one on the left you can use to teleport around your virtual space. The one on the right is your gun. The game is simple – you’re in some kind of space control room by yourself and robots attack. You need to kill them all before they kill you.
For someone like me who is easily scared and jumps at everything, it was absolutely terrifying. The rumble pack shakes whenever you get hit, the robots come at you from all sides, and I have terrible, terrible aim.
Heather was pretty much the same. The cool thing about having gone back again is that Raw Data was updated the second time I went. You can now play a multiplayer version from different pods, and the bad guys are a little more varied now – more drones, more levels, some larger robots towards the end. I love shoot-em-up games so it was thrilling for me.
The other game I did was The Mummy experience. It didn’t have the best graphics but you use their own proprietary, vey expensive headset, along with a fake gun. You start sitting on the side of a “helicopter” (built into the pod) that makes it feel like you’re actually flying – fighting away mummies and protecting trucks from the sky before the helicopter lands. You’re then forced to fight the mummies (and some weird spider things that pop out)on the ground and eventually, you face off against an 8bit Sofia Boutella mummy.
It was incredibly though it felt so real that I actually experienced slight vertigo! So be aware of that if you’re someone who gets motion sick. It’s probably not the best choice for you.
But overall, the entire experience at the IMAX VR center was incredible. It’s going to be a long time until this type of gear becomes a common household item so I definitely see this arcade-style set-up being the near future of gaming.
Clearly others feel the same because despite almost no marketing effort whatsoever the LA theater pulled in almost 20,000 visitors in it’s first three months. I imagine it’s continued to be that popular since then, and if you haven’t gone yet, I definitely recommend you go. It’s quite an amazing experience and open every day of the week!
COST REPORT: $-$$
PARKING $8 VALET OR $1/HOUR METERED