Game on! York set to get its first virtual reality arcade

The new arcade will be fitted with HTC Vive virtual reality headsets. Photograph:
23 Jul 2018 @ 7.22 pm
| Business, Entertainment

You will soon be able to immerse yourself in amazing alternate worlds without leaving York – if ambitious plans get the go ahead.

A couple are planning to open the first virtual reality arcade in the city.

This would allow people to don high-tech VR headsets and play the world’s most advanced immersive video games.

Kate Nolton and her partner Mike Creedon, both from York, say the arcade will be a fantastic new experience – and not just for gamers.

Kate and Mike have launched their own company – Play It VR Ltd – and if City of York Council grant them planning permission hope to have the new venture up and running within two months.

Bold vision

The duo are both keen gamers – they have two Xboxes and also play games on their PC. When they read about virtual reality they knew it was something they wanted to be involved in.

“Something Mike wanted from being a child was to have an arcade. But obviously technology’s advanced since then,” Kate told YorkMix.

“The more we talked about it, the more we though this could really work.”

They want to turn a former furniture shop on York Road, Acomb, into the VR arcade.

It would be a pioneering move. Kate says there are only about 15 in the whole of the UK and only one so far in Yorkshire, over in Bradford.

They want permission to convert the old Pine & Oak Interiors shop on York Road, Acomb, into the arcade. Photograph © Google Street View

She envisages a waiting area at the front with tables and chairs. And it would begin with six VR booths.

You could choose your VR experience and pay for it in the booth, or book online. Each two-metre squared booth would have enough room for people to move around safely while immersed in their virtual world.

“We’ve sourced some software that’s based in America that will manage everything,” said Kate.

Not just games

There are about 200 VR titles licensed for commercial use right now, and more than 30 are added every week. Kate said:

  • The scope of what this technology could be used for is so much wider than just entertainment for the kids to play a few games.

    We will have a vast range of software. It’s not just games – there are experiences too.

    Google Earth is a very famous one. You can go in and look round the world – and even go under the sea.

They will be using HTC Vive VR headsets and technology, costing £2,000 a time. “Most people are not going to be able to have this in their home. We want to provide this technology for the everyday person to come in and experience.”

Perfect spot

Kate hopes the arcade will attract people of all ages. Photograph: Giu Vicente on Unsplash
Kate said the former shop in Acomb was the perfect place – with plenty of space, and a big window which could house a display screen demonstrating what was inside.

“The place on York Road is fantastic. Acomb has a strong community spirit – and there’s quite a lot of footfall there,” she said.

People who knew about their plans were already excited, she said, adding:

  • People who you wouldn’t think are typical gamers are quite excited to come down and give it a go.

    It sits outside that normal assumption of somebody sitting at home playing for hours on end by themselves.

    We want to make it more sociable – introduced tournaments, have leaderboards on certain games, and get people involved having fun together as a group.

Once the arcade was established, she hoped that they could involve all sorts of different groups from the local area, including school and university students and city software businesses.