Mill Avenue virtual arcade offers adrenaline and entertainment

The new virtual reality arcade on Mill Avenue enables students to experience next-generation entertainment

A new virtual reality arcade on Mill Avenue is offering Tempe a taste of the future. 

VR Junkies, which opened in 2016, is an arcade which enables technophiles to experience virtual reality for $1 per minute, and with a valid ASU ID, students can receive 10 percent off every visit.  

The arcade is equipped with eight HTC Vive virtual reality headsets, three on the building's upper floor and five in the basement level, dubbed the Holodeck. 

To play, customers are fitted with VR goggles, headphones and two controllers. Once immersed, they can interact with objects and entities in a virtual landscape. Haptic feedback lets the user know when items are selected or enemies are destroyed in a game setting. 

A large variety of games are at the user’s fingertips, spanning a wide range of difficulty levels and age ratings. 

“We’ve got all kinds of games from arcade to shoot ‘em up, multiplayer and single player,” Chris Krakowski, owner of VR Junkies, said. “We leverage the Steam platform, so we get new games practically every week.”

Although VR Junkies is a multi-national franchise, the Mill Avenue location is the only stand-alone mom-and-pop shop. Krakowski and his family can be found in the shop on weekends hanging out and assisting customers.

While anyone on Mill Avenue can walk in and experience VR, the shop hopes to host large competitive tournaments and long-term gaming leagues in the future. These leagues would have periodic competitions leading up to a championship final. 

VR Junkies recently hosted the Kuwait Club ASU (KWASU) for the arcade’s first tournament. KWASU is a student organization which organizes events for ASU students from Kuwait, although any student who would like to attend an event is welcome.

The high-stakes tournament pitted 90 students against each another until three winners were declared. The first place winner was given $500 cash, a trophy and a VR Junkies t-shirt.

"We heard about the virtual reality shop and we thought it was a new idea, which is what we always try to achieve in our club so people know us as innovative,” Fares Almethen, president of KWASU, said. 

Abdullah Alqattan, KWASU's vice president, said the event was a success and that the club plans on coming back for future events.

“Everyone who came had a lot of fun, even people who don’t play video games," Alqattan said. “A lot of people came just to see what would happen. It was very exciting." 

“We would definitely do another tournament like this in the future. Next time, we plan on having multiplayer team competitions, which we think will be even more fun."

In coordination with VR Junkies and some local restaurants, students lounged at nearby food-stops between matches, all courtesy of the club.

The owners of VR Junkies seek to consistently update the shop’s games and equipment in parallel with the advancement of virtual reality technology.

Krakowski regularly attends a local VR meetup, Arizona Virtual Reality (AZVR), in which hardware and software developers, entrepreneurs, engineers and enthusiasts gather to discuss VR and where it is headed. 

“There are huge changes on the horizon," Krakowski said. "And it's revolutionizing entertainment." 


 Reach the reporter at snnoudal@asu.edu or follow @seannoudali on Twitter. 

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