Want to get closer to experiencing what it’s like to float around in space, fight robots in the future, or travel around the body as a cell?
Reality can be tough, but virtual reality (VR) is a non-stop rush that feels like you’re moving about inside of an interactive IMAX theater. Whether you consider yourself to be a gamer or not, VR is a cutting-edge technology that everyone should have the chance to experience.
However, if you’re not much into gaming, VR may seem niche and inaccessible; if you are, owning a VR system is a serious investment. A setup can cost upwards of $2000. Luckily, Pittsburgh is a city with a growing VR and immersive entertainment scene — and let’s just state that for the record, it’s awesome.
So if you’re VR-curious, a gamer, or just looking for something new and exciting to do with your friends or family (especially during the cold months), here are three killer places where you can go and play VR. No previous gaming experience required!
145 E 8th Ave., Homestead
A true hidden gem on Homestead’s main drag, Pittsburgh VR is located in a massive renovated bank building that’s also home to Ace Axe Throwing and Escape Room Pittsburgh.
With four side-by-side Oculus Rift systems stations in one large room, you can play alongside your friends and even play multiplayer games. If you’ve never played VR before, not to worry — a guide will walk you through the experience, show you how to use the controls, and help you choose what games to play.
Among the most played are Beat Saber, an addictively fun game where you slash musical ‘beats’ (blocks flying at you) with a light saber; Robo Recall, a futuristic first-person shooter where you explore different scenescapes and destroy robots; and Dead and Buried, a much sought-after multiplayer shooter.
VR or no, if games really aren’t your thing, there are several immersive experience ‘games’ that go beyond traditional gameplay. Fly around the planet in VR Google Earth, ride a roller coaster, walk out onto a plank on top of a skyscraper, float around in space, or travel through the human body as a red blood cell.
Each station has at least 25 games and more are being added all the time, says owner Joe Deasy, who also created Ace Axe Throwing and Escape Room Pittsburgh. (Check out their list of games).
“The VR world is like the wild wild west,” says Deasy, noting that VR technology is still developing and many games are released in their beta state. That means constant changes and updates are the norm. Yet the Central Catholic High School grad, who has traveled the world in search of cutting-edge immersive entertainment, sees Pittsburgh VR as a natural fit in Pittsburgh.
“I think Pittsburgh is a forerunner of VR technology,” he says, citing Carnegie Mellon University and Schell Games, a leading VR game developer based here in Pittsburgh.
Deasy is certainly helping to set the pace with his full-on immersive entertainment venue, making it possible for Pittsburghers and visitors alike to experience VR for the first time. And if you need a break from the future in the VR room, you can go and try your hand at the medieval art of axe-throwing, test your problem-solving skills in the high-tech escape room, or sip a local brew at the bar.
In addition, Pittsburgh VR has several Xbox and Playstation systems and hosts regular Fortnite tournaments, as well as parties and events. Did we mention, it’s also BYOB (and bring your own food)?
Age Range: All ages, but recommended for ages 9 and older
VR Pricing (per person): $15 for 30 mins // $25 for 1 hr // $50 for membership rates
How to Play: This place can get busy, especially in the winter, so book ahead of time online: https://pghvr.com/booking/
Get There: 145 E 8th Ave.
Enter on 8th Ave main entrance // Look for signs for Ace Axe Throwing // Street parking and paid parking lot available.
Web: Pittsburgh VR website // Phone: 412-368-8579
1113 E. Carson St., SouthSide
Victory Pointe Arcade is another hidden wonder of Pittsburgh. Snuggled tightly into East Carson Street right next to Jack’s Bar, this place is nothing short of a gamer’s paradise (and just all around fun place to visit). The venue houses two floors of any game imaginable, ranging from classic arcade games, to thousands of console games, to tabletop and card games — and of course, VR.
There is a dedicated VR room with two HTC Vive headsets, where you can choose from over 50 VR games. Similar to Pittsburgh VR, you can also play Beat Saber here, as well as popular first-person shooters like Super Hot and strategy games like I Expect You to Die. Visitors and especially first-time players are guided in using the controls and are recommended certain games to play.
You can book parties or private events, check out all the gaming options, or just go for the VR. (Note that you must have more than one person in order to play VR.) BYOB and/or get a milkshake made with locally sourced ice cream!
Age Range: All ages, but recommended for ages 10 and older
VR Pricing: $10 for 30 mins (for group)
How to Play: Walk in, call, or book a party // https://www.victorypointe.com/events.html
Phone: (412) 251-5150
Get There: 1113 E. Carson St. // Street parking
Hours and Info: https://www.victorypointe.com/index.html
1775 S. Braddock Ave., Edgewood
Scene 75 also makes our list of places to experience VR. This mega indoor entertainment complex began in Ohio and gradually made its way to Pittsburgh, opening in the Edgewood shopping plaza in 2018. Geared towards kids and adults alike, they feature six separate HTC Vive headset stations and typically have four revolving VR games all at times, catering to a range of ages.
In addition to Beat Saber, the current game list includes Space Pirate Trainer, a training simulator for any aspiring jedi, and Job Simulator, where you relearn what it’s like to work in a future where AI has replaced all jobs. There’s also The Brookhaven Experiment, a post-apocalyptic survival shooter with tons of monsters to kill.
If you’ve never played before, you’re not on your own — an employee provides instructions on using the headset and helps you pick the best game for you. Scene75 also offers other immersive attractions like a 3D interactive motion simulator, as well as lots of other activities: go-karts, laser tag, arcade games, mini-bowling, and more. There’s a bar, as well as “food truck” style eats. You can walk in or book a party or event ahead of time; you don’t have to book VR separately.
Age Range: All ages, but recommended for ages 10 and older
VR Pricing: $10 for 15 mins (per person)
How to Play: Walk in or book a party // https://www.scene75.com/pittsburgh/book-an-event/
Get There: 1775 S. Braddock Ave. // Free parking lot
Hours and Info: https://www.scene75.com/pittsburgh/
Phone: (412) 336-2330
The National Aviary: “Fly,” a VR experience where you fly like a pterosaur through Jurassic times.