Here we’ll look at what the festival is about, talk with organizers, and of course look at whether the festival is coming to a city near you.
Rethinking the Arcade VR Experience
If you’re serious about virtual reality, you might have your own dedicated kit at home. However, many people have their first VR experience at a VR arcade. Once a phenomenon limited to major population centers, these businesses are becoming increasingly common.
While some people would prefer to stay at home and use their own hardware, VR arcades – and the arcade VR experience – are an important social aspect of VR culture.
“What I like about VR is that it gives people a reason to get out of the house,” Paul Rock said in an interview.
Rock is the cofounder of Another Reality, a VR arcade in Ontario. He’s also one of the festival organizers.
“A lot of people that I see in the VR art scene just talk to each other online,” said Rock. “The main goal [of the festival] is to encourage face-to-face communication… as well as to drive local interest and attract new people.”
Coming to a City Near You?
The VR arcade is central to the festival, as they serve as the venues in each city. In this way, the festival does not only encourage VR experiences in art. It also encourages VR experiences as social experiences and endorses local VR establishments. Much of the five months of planning went into identifying locations.
“I spent most of the time making sure that I was getting good hosts,” said Rock. “We didn’t want anyone to need to buy anything or rent anything to participate.”
The festival, organized by Another Reality in partnership with ZIXI Tech, will launch on February 13 at one UK location (London). It will be followed by events at one location in Canada (Toronto), seven in the US (Connecticut, Los Angeles, South Carolina, NYC, Brooklyn, Seattle, and Boston), one in China (Shanghai), and two in Australia (Melbourne and Sydney).
The main goal is to encourage face-to-face communication… as well as to drive local interest and attract new people.
The Australian community has been particularly receptive, as has the New York population, according to Rock. Two of the US locations are located in the metro New York area.
While he expects around thirty people at most locations, Rock’s hopes for the New York and Australia locations are particularly high.
The Tournament Aspect
We’ve talked about the festival, but not the tournament. Rock stated that “tournament” was listed second in the title deliberately because it is less important. There will be a competition and prizes but the event is about collaboration rather than competition.
Contestants will have the opportunity to create a VR experience using Tilt Brush. There will be one category for those experienced with the software and one for those new to the experience.
“We don’t get into specifics regarding ‘experience’ in VR,” said Rock.
Contestants will compete first at the local level, with local winners competing at the global level. Contestants in both categories may have their names displayed on a billboard in New York’s Time Square.
Winners will be announced May 1.
The future of the contest is uncertain. Event organizers are always looking for sponsors, including in-kind contributions. Further, Rock’s greatest hope for the festival is that it will inspire the VR community to take up the mantle themselves.
“I’m always about things that can be taken up by independently, things that are driven by a fanbase. Look at Comic Con: it’s not run by DC or Marvel, it’s fan-driven,” said Rock. “Maybe this festival could become something that’s organized by fans and participants.”