Headset on. And just like that: you’re a wizard, Huw. Here’s your wand, here’s your shield. Off we tentatively shuffle – straight into battle.
I start my visit at Hyper Reality’s dry ‘cyberpunk gaming bar’ in one big room, draped in green sheets. A whole new world opens up. It’s called Wizards and Dragons. You walk around a spider-infested magical kingdom, you try not to bump into your wizarding companion, you slay a dragon. Swish. Zap. Dead. It’s very relaxing. Ten minutes that feel like hours of fun in the scheme of my fuck-all-else-to-do life right now.
I’ve never been a gamer, but today I finally get it. We all need a break from this hopeless world, and virtual reality might just be the ideal way out. Some fantasy. Some violence. Some escapism for times in which you can’t actually escape very far. When was the last time you travelled in a rickshaw-rollercoaster hybrid along the Great Ruddy Wall of China? So powerful was the experience here it made my gaming buddy – yes, I have one of those now – feel physically sick. Hilarious.
The final room is a post-apocalyptic zombieland where you have to shoot at everything that moves with an AK47. The half-dead pile in around you. Even the dogs have that vacant look that signals: you are flesh, and I will eat you. With regret, I fire at them too. By the end, I’m a total animal. I’m basically Rick Grimes. Except I die a helluva lot quicker. For the first time in months, I feel properly alive, and all it took was a virtual death.
Hyper Reality is at 67 Mile End Rd, E1 4TT, find out more here.
Hyper Reality isn’t the only VR bar in town, there’s also Otherworld in Haggerston.
Not returned to a London gallery or museum yet? Try a virtual tour.