We tried it: Fighting pirates in virtual reality paradise at BOSS VR Arena

When I first heard about the concept of virtual reality free-roam gaming at BOSS Pro Karting, I thought that it would be great fun to experience it one day. Little did I know that two weeks later I would get an assignment to experience the technology first-hand and report on my experiences.

Zero Latency at BOSS Arena—a virtual reality free-roam gaming arenaI recruited my friends Matt and Ethan to joining me last Saturday, 

The constantly evolving BOSS building is located on Brookpark Road, very close to Cleveland Hopkins Airport. Owners Brad Copley and his cousin Lee Boss first opened BOSS in 2016 with Go Karting, followed by Axe Throwing in 2021. BOSS then opened its VR Arena earlier this month.

A hidden gem of its kind, customers walk into this open warehouse, are greeted at the front desk and are immediately surrounded by the entertainment offerings—to the right are the go karting tracks and the axe-throwing cage, as well as seats for food and drinks offered in the building.

The Zero Latency VR Arena itself is not viewable when first walking in. But after rounding the corner of the front desk, there is a sign-in area, a room with all of the gear, and the arena where the games are played. 

Zero Latency is where visitors can step out of their own worlds for an hour and fight zombies, battle pirates, explore an abandoned space station, or experience altered gravity.

When Ethan, Matt, and I tried on the virtual reality headsets and went into the test simulation, I knew we were in for a completely different type of gaming. From a blue holographic room, we were thrown into a prison cell, discovering we had to escape an island of gun-blazing villagers.

“We’re all about providing exciting, adrenaline-filled experiences to groups,” says Brad Copley, owner and president of BOSS Pro Karting. “It really comes to life when you’re there with a group of friends, family, or your corporate team.”

The game we played, Far Cry: Dive Into Insanity, is an intense first-person shooting experience that showcases the many impressive visuals the technology has to offer. While there were soldiers constantly running and shooting at us, we also had to use our environment—hiding behind a pillar, entering a trolley that takes the player across the map, fighting through a psychedelic episode—these were all aspects of a video game I never thought I would be so immersed in. 

The zero latency in the game was what sparked most of our conversations after playing. “I’ve tried VR before, and this is better than everything else,” my friend Ethan told the workers who helped set up our equipment. Zero latency means there is no delay in movement from the real world to the virtual world, and it is something Copley says he knew he had to bring to BOSS.

Evan Gallagher (far right) and his friends Matt and Ethan give it a try at BOSS Zero Latency VR Arena.“I started investigating a little further and have been following zero latency for about five years now,” says Copley  “I flew out to Phoenix and Vegas, and immediately when I tried it, I knew, holy cow, this is something completely different.”

This is not the first VR arena in the country, but this is Cleveland’s only arena. There are ten other U.S. locations where this VR technology is used, as well as global locations in Melbourne, Sydney, Prague, Frankfurt, and Tokyo.

“When I heard we were bringing it here, I thought it was a fantastic idea, says Dylan Harrington, one of the game masters at BOSS. “When I tried this, I was like, ‘I feel like I’m actually there.’”.

While we played Far Cry, there are five additional games that visitors can play. We watched the trailers for Sol Raiders, a sci-fi battle adventure; Outbreak Origins, a zombie shooter that takes place in a large city; and Singularity, a game in which the player fights against robots in space. It was apparent that these options try to showcase the diverse playing styles of this technology.

The equipment that is used is meant to fully immerse the player into whatever world they are transported to. There is the backpack that has the sensors, the VR goggles connected to the pack, headphones with a microphone to talk to your counterparts, and the plastic rifle to use in the game.

Zero Latency at BOSS Arena—a virtual reality free-roam gaming arenaThe session of Far Cry: Dive Into Insanity was half an hour for us, but the game’s intensity and realness made it feel as if we were in this world for hours. During our banter and yelling to get to cover or rush to another position, we realized just how locked in we were.

This is a place where friends and family can spend all day at and not have a looming sense of boredom. 

Copley talked about his pride in bringing the technology to Northeast Ohio, which he calls home, and allowing people to have memorable experiences.

“It’s really about activities that can allow you to come together,” he says. “That’s what we’ve been successfully delivering for five years now with go-kart racing, and the axe throwing showed us that even more. It’s the perfect edition.”

Read more articles by Evan Gallagher.

Evan Gallagher has always loved writing and using his creative side for a career is a dream come true. A self-proclaimed news junkie, Gallagher passionately keeps up with current events. When he’s not writing, he enjoys running, playing guitar and keyboard, and spending time with friends.  Gallagher is a journalism major, specializing in news and information, at the Ohio University’s E.W. Scripps School of Journalism. Gallagher is the director of PR/social media for The New Political, one of OU’s online publications, and writes for All Campus Public Radio (ACRN).