A beloved author of mine, M. John Harrison, called them ‘twinks’. Addicts, if you will, paying up big bucks and jacking into virtual reality out of both a yearning for ecstasy and an escape from debt, be that emotional or monetary. Look up prominent twink Ed Chianese, and you’ll find his pocked résumé bears resemblances to those of addicts in our real world. Twinks are just one such fictional example, though. This concept of paying institutions to plug in to to virtual reality is abundant throughout science fiction novels—novels that routinely skirt the borders of dystopia. Perhaps the most recent of such that I picked up was Ready Player One by Ernest Cline. In here we have the same tropes—VR for escape, VR for delight, VR for survival, and VR that will cost you.
So even before virtual reality, in its current personal trend of Vives and Rifts, has even had the chance to take off, the idea of a communal virtual reality arcade seems to already be tired. Nevertheless, the masses are ready it would seem, and the money is there—the uninitiated want in.
Today in Paris, France, one of Europe’s largest virtual reality facilities has been announced. Cough up around $10 and you can “jack into” any number of VR games at mk2’s VR experience for an hour. Crytek’s The Climb is on offer, so is Ubisoft’s Eagle Flight. The facility also bargains customers with the Star Wars Rogue One: X-Wing VR mission and a VR Assassin’s Creed experience. It makes sense. Both the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive cost upwards of $500, and that’s without the cash hungry computing systems needed to run them on. It’s much cheaper in the short run to go get your VR kicks from these purpose-run facilities.
Image: Mk2 VR
There’s also the social aspect. Virtual reality, in its current iteration, seems to be a largely personal, almost lonely experience. Multiplayer is there, sure, but you’re cut off from any real-life peripheral anchors in a world you know isn’t real. This Paris facility itself even provides 12 “VR pods” for “individual experiences”. What’s the communal, shared benefit of having public facilities like these? According to its designers, “mk2 VR’s concept offers consumers a lively, culture-filled facility.” The dedicated space, housed in mk2’s Paris Bibliotheque multiplex, even offers a rooftop terrace bar for alcohol consumption. “For anyone looking for a new experience, wanting to enjoy VR technologies or just having a drink in a cheerful environment, mk2 VR is poised to be the ‘go to’ place on the forefront of this latest revolution in entertainment.”
Cultured indeed. Like brothels, casinos, opium dens, and bars before them, VR facilities are being advertised as the next destination for those hunting a vice, for those looking to be cool, and for those looking for a new habit.