Plugged into a different take on reality

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 07 February, 1993, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 07 February, 1993, 12:00am

IN THE heart of Tsim Sha Tsui lies a new club. It is not for disco freaks or karaoke addicts, nor does it hanker to the beer-swilling crowd. This club is exclusively for those who like their reality served with a twist. Virtual reality, that is.

Most people get their kicks seeing others give kicks on the silver screen, but for those who prefer to be part of the action, virtual reality offers a unique opportunity.

That is where The VR Club comes in. Stocked with seven VR (virtual reality) machines, The VR Club takes the idea of a video game hall further.

Imported from England, the machines use the latest in virtual reality technology for entertainment applications. Plug yourself in and suddenly you enter a computer-generated three-dimensional environment where there is no turning back.

Tucked in the basement of Star House, the club has the air of a waiting room. Patrons sit and watch the video monitors that display the game playing, as they wait their turn.

Nervously, I walked through the turnstiles to the waiting machine. I hauled myself up on to the raised, padded crib.

VR Club owner Mr Miki Sivan helped hoist the cumbersome and heavy equipment on to my shoulders as I strapped the belt around my waist. A ''visette'' helmet was lowered on to my head.

After a few adjustments, I could see the three-dimensional landscape.

Brightly coloured plateaus confronted me. Ahead of me were a series of steps. I moved my head right, a maze of walls looked menacing. To the left, open space.

Gripping my joy stick, I listened to instructions. To walk forward, hit the top button. To shoot, use the lower trigger. To change direction, physically turn in that direction and my computer-generated self would follow suit.

Dactyl Nightmare started whether I was ready or not.

Tentatively, I pushed the forward walking button. The landscape moved along under me. Looking down, I could see the tops of my feet and legs. I moved my arm out in front of me. My gun appeared.

A chorus of advice came from those watching the video monitor.

''Look to your left, keep turning, keep turning,'' said Mr Sivan. ''Now move ahead.'' Unsure of myself, I was glad to oblige.

Suddenly, a green flying creature appeared on the horizon. The teradactyl! I moved forward, gun at the ready. At a closer range, I began to fire.

Within moments, I was under attack. I swivelled again and a new opponent faced me. I fired, the assailant shattered into computer-generated smithereens.

Fifty dollars buys five minutes of VR play and for a $200 membership fee, you are given a V-Key which allows you to credit or deduct time and store your position on the machine.

Leaving the club, I began to contemplate when I might hone my skills.