Local Teen Goes Behind the Scenes with Madison’s Virtual Reality Center

This article is written and photographed by All Things Madison student intern, Brandon Clark, a senior at Bob Jones High School.

The cool exterior art at Altered Reality on Highway 72 is the first clue that one is about to have his or her reality altered once one walks through the doors.

Owner Susann Gardner prides the business on being “a place where you can come and alter your reality, period.”

A common misconception that Gardner hears often is that a guest “can’t get into virtual reality” or that “it’s just not for me.”

“Just try it,” encourages Gardner. “Don’t think it’s not for you because VR has something for everybody.”

If video games are not your thing, but you still want to get your feet wet with the VR (Virtual Reality) experience, you probably need to sample some of the games. Snow Fortress is definitely a game worth trying! When you enter the game, you get placed in a wintry wonderland joined by a furry companion. The objective is to protect your fort, throw snowballs, destroy the enemy fort, throw even more snowballs, and overall, have fun!

You can also test your might in fan-favorite Arizona Sunshine, where the goal is to fight off hordes of zombies in an apocalyptic world.

Want to venture out of your comfort zone and take control of the virtual world around you? You can do just that in Nature Treks VR where you can introduce your own elements like the weather or the stars in the sky.

“My friend has VR, so what makes this place so special?”

For starters, guests have 60+ games available to pick from a variety of genres such as Family Friendly, Action RPG, Causal, Horror, Sports Active, and Shooters. They also have multiplayer escape rooms!

Another reason this place is unique is because of the equipment.

Every station contains a TV, a powerful computer, and the HTC VIVE with its controllers amounting to $4,000 of equipment dedicated to your experience for all ten stations. The main difference between the HTC VIVE and the Oculus Quest is that everything in the Oculus comes all in one, but the depth of field for the Oculus is nothing compared to the experience the HTC has to offer.

“It looks like TV, but when you get in that headset, it’s real,” shared Gardner.

I wondered how a business such as this could be sufficiently thriving during the midst of a pandemic; however, they have safety precautions in place.

For one, they take temperatures at the door. They also take responsibility for cleaning surfaces that customers interact with using standard cleaning products, but where the magic happens is with the “Clean Box.” To properly sanitize the headsets and gear used by customers, they use the clean box that uses the same UV technology that hospitals use to clean contaminated surfaces. 

Altered Reality has plans for a space in the back with no equipment. Eventually, this space will be used for other activities like Dungeons and Dragons, Yu Gi Oh, model painting, and even board games.

There is also another area in the building where you can host birthday parties. One wall in the birthday room is covered in a whiteboard so you can have a large space to write out and draw birthday wishes. 

During the first week of May, Altered Reality will be releasing a summer pass.

The pass is $100 for four whole hours of play. To use this pass, you need to reserve sessions in a minimum of 30-minute increments. This means that one 30-minute visit per week equates to about two full months of play! The summer pass is not only limited to you; You can share the pass with a friend if you have some hours to spare.

Passes are limited, so purchase quickly if interested!

If you want to visit Altered Reality, try booking ahead before a weekend visit. Weekdays are not as busy, so guests should be able to walk in at almost any time.

No matter what time you come in, be sure to give a wave to Vern, the red floaty guy on your way to enter new worlds.

In the words of Susann Gardner, “Don’t escape reality, alter it.”

To read more about Altered Reality on All Things Madison, click here.

Visit Altered Reality on their website, Facebook, and Instagram


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