I thought crotch-shooting a room full of reporters was a lovely way to spend a Wednesday afternoon.

Then, I entered the virtual world of Terminal 17.

Sh*t got real, real quick.

My first ever VR experience was all a part of a sneak peak at Dreamland – Canada’s largest virtual reality arcade – located right here in London, Ontario.

I've seen the future, and it's on Wellington Road.
I’ve seen the future, and it’s on Wellington Road.

On March 14, a select few media types (LondonFuse included), were invited to destroy alien insects inside a 2,400 square foot holodeck, while being completely immersed in a 3D virtual environment. There was no pointing and clicking to move around – there was ample room for myself and the other players to walk around freely.

No sooner was my headset on than I knew I had finally entered the future.

Getting it right

“You’ve got to use technology to your advantage,” says Chady Boutros, the brains behind Dreamland and founder of Cellular Magician. “You’re missing out if you don’t.”

Boutros has done his homework on said technology. He has been traveling the world, researching the best VR setups. What he came back with laid the groundwork for Dreamland’s cyber-Wonderland.

The man who dreamt Dreamland into reality, Chady Boutros.
Meet the man who dreamt Dreamland into reality, Chady Boutros.

He said he found the biggest obstacle to a true VR experience was being wired into a small space. Having a cable constantly connected to your headset takes away from the fantasy, because it’s always tugging if you move too far.

Not so with Dreamland, where everything was wireless and I was free to roam.

“What everyone gets wrong is they put you in a jail,” he said. “It’s just a dark room with LED lights.”

Every part of the facility was custom-made, Boutros explained, displaying early renders of Dreamland while we were waiting for the games to begin. The interior of the place looks like it’s a sci-fi movie set, even without the headset. Lots of Tron blue.

Load out

Which brings me back to Terminal 17 – a game from VRcade out of Seattle, Washington.

Even though I’m a lifelong gamer, this was my very first taste of VR outside of watching Lawnmower Man as a kid. I can only imagine how foolish I looked walking about inside an illusion, but I’m guessing I was somewhat better conditioned for the environment than some of my counterparts.

While others were getting used to the gear, I was gettin' er done.
While others were getting used to the gear, I was gettin’ ‘er done.

The amount of processing power it takes to run the place is massive given Dreamland’s VR track is designed to accommodate eight players at a time. Myself and the others had the equivalent of a fully functioning computer strapped to our backs.

Inside the armoury, with its brushed steel and advanced weaponry, I geared up with my backpack, VR headset, and a surprisingly weighty laser rifle.

Safety definitely off.

Mission time!

Once the headset was on and I was in the game, it was almost vertigo-inducing. But, once things calibrated and my new body took shape, I was ready to blast my way into the record books.

It took a little while for everyone to get used to the environment, so I used my spare time taking the aforementioned crotch shots and hoarding power ups.

Yeah… I’m that guy.

You can't tell, but we're totally in an elevator.
You can’t tell, but we’re totally in an elevator.

But once Terminal 17 booted up and I was entering a landing pod high above an alien landscape, it was all business.

I came, I saw, I slaughtered.

Okay… I destroyed a lot of insect eggs and a few space bugs. But I was still the first person out of the ship, and that’s got to count for something.

Would I go again?

Absolutely.

And this time, I’d have more regard for health points.

Dreamland is located at 979 Wellington, directly beside Landmark Cinema. They will be open for business very soon. Check them out online for exact dates.

Photos by Nicole Borland

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