Oh, now there is no sound/For we all live underground
Technology is both wonderful and terrifying. It can be used for good, or it can be used for evil.
But in the last 48 hours, I’ve been absolutely shook by Dreamscape, a VR (virtual reality, duh, noobs) experience that’s launching at AMC Easton this weekend. I’ve experienced it. I don’t have the words to describe it, even though that’s actually my job here, so bear with me.
Some background: Dreamscape is a company whose investors include Steven Spielberg (perhaps you’ve heard of him). The company built a VR experience that mixes cinema and immersive exploration in a way that made me feel like “Back to the Future 2” Marty McFly. In partnership with AMC, Dreamscape has taken over a chunk of the chain’s 30-screen Easton location.
Here are the current places in the world where you can experience what has been built firsthand: Los Angeles, Dallas, Dubai and… Columbus, Ohio.
Today I’m grateful to live in the greatest big-little city and America’s test market.
For roughly $20 a pop, you can enjoy one of Dreamscape’s three offered experiences. More on those later. Here’s what goes down: The experience mixes free-world VR and cinematic narrative, masterfully blending technology and storytelling and setting you amid the action in ways that my imagination has always yearned.
You’ll buy a ticket. My gut is that the word of mouth on this is going to make buying those in advance a necessity for a while.
It’s more akin to a theme park ride than anything. Each of the three offered experiences is had with a cozy six-person max. In a smartly calculated piece of the experience, it’s framed in the sense of travel sense. They aren’t show times. They’re boarding times.
Your helpful hosts will arrive and take you back to one of six sort-of locker rooms where you suit up for the journey, strapping sensors on both feet and both hands, a backpack that powers the whole thing, and finally, when you’re led into a small room that’s about to not be so small at all, a VR headset.
What happens next is just magic. I don’t have another word.
After some of the admittedly awkward navigation of the equipment and technology, expect to spend the next 15 or so minutes in sheer childlike wonder. You’ll look around at a baseline “Lawnmower Man” version of yourself and your avatar compatriots. In my first few disorienting moments I looked down to remember, wait, I’m not wearing jeans. Those aren’t my real legs. This is wild.
Spoiler: It’s about to get exponentially more wild.
Dreamscape at Easton offers three of the company’s four experiences (a “How to Train Your Dragon”-themed one is more of a ride and only available in L.A.). I’ve done them all. I only have a slight favorite, because each is nearly equally incredible.
“Curse of the Lost Pearl” drops you in a full-on Indiana Jones adventure. That was my first experience, the closest to my heart and a narrow favorite. “Alien Zoo” will make you feel like you’re living “Jurassic Park” on another planet. And “The Blu” is a deep-sea diving adventure where you can breathe comfortably in those moments that you aren’t gasping at the wonder of it all.
This was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced.
The clunky tech suiting (which is also a hugely fun part of things) vanishes once the experience begins. Your lizard brain kicks in. In my case, my fear of virtual heights became a safe thrill even as my brain completely gave up on the concept that I was just in a mid-size room in, of all places, Easton Town Center (its own kind of virtual reality since its inception).
The joys of both seeing and, more importantly, interacting with the experience can’t be overstated, even if I can’t quite find the words. The best way I could sum it up is this: I didn’t feel like I saw something. I felt like I went somewhere.
And while I realize some may balk at $20 for this experience, I can’t imagine anyone going through this and not thinking it was worth every penny.
For Columbus to be one of four places in the world you can do this is just incredible. If I’d made the godawful drive to Chicago to experience it, I’d still say it was worth it. And I got to sleep in my own bed afterwards.
But make your travel plans soon, because only the most jaded person will try to say this experience is somehow not worth it. When people start talking about this, there is going to be a wait list.
To quote Hunter S. Thompson: Buy the ticket, take the ride.