Waterloo entrepreneurs create Canada's first virtual reality gaming space
'Our goal was to accelerate the adoption of VR,' Ctrl V CEO says
They look like the little men on washroom signs come to life.
And they want into your castle.
You aim your bow and arrow at them and, if your aim is true, the little men shatter and their bodies release balloons.
That's all it takes to become immersed in and addicted to the world of virtual reality gaming according to Ryan Brooks, the man behind Ctrl V in Waterloo.
Three local entrepreneurs
In 2005, a 28-year-old man in South Korea died of a heart attack after playing video games for 50 hours straight at an Internet cafe.
"I was like, what's going to happen when the gaming is so immersive that you forget about reality completely?" Brooks said. "I think people are going to need a place to go that can help regulate how much time they're in there."
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Born and raised in Waterloo, Brooks went to Lakehead University for theoretical physics and math, and currently works as a supply teacher.
But he had this idea for a virtual reality gaming centre, so he partnered up with Robert Bruski – now the company's chief financial officer – and Brooks' cousin, James Elligson – now the chief operating officer – to create Ctrl V.
The three thought it was logical to have a place where people could go and rent virtual reality gaming systems, as the technology is expensive and takes up a lot of space.
"We've had a lot of people say, 'Yeah, I thought of this, but I just wasn't able to do it,'" he said.
Interest around the globe
Ctrl V is not just the first virtual reality gaming hub in Waterloo – it's a first in Canada, according to Brooks.
It has only been open for a few days, but interest surrounding the space has spread far beyond the region.
Brooks said they've already received 30 requests for franchising information from interested businesses across Canada, as well as from the United States, Australia, India, Poland and Ukraine.
"It's just crazy," he said. "I don't know how word got out so far and so quickly, but we're really glad that it did, because we really want to make this accessible everywhere."
More than just games
The University of Waterloo Games Institute will be using the space at Ctrl V to do some research, and Brook said they are also in talks to have paramedics and firefighters come in for training.
He said virtual reality is a great way to have professionals go into situations that are too dangerous or too expensive to set up.
"It's so outside the scale of just gaming.... This is where we start, but there's a lot more to come."
Gaming for everyone
Anybody can play a game in virtual reality and there are games for every person.
Even people who aren't particularly fond of playing video games can get into the virtual reality system, according to Brooks.
They've had people aged six to 72 try it out, and they all figured it out pretty quickly.
"We had a few people, already the moment they got out, [say] 'Can I book another hour?'" he said.
"We just wanted to bring this to the masses. Our goal was accelerate the adoption of VR. The only way that's going to happen is if we can make it accessible to as many people."