Virtual reality center withstands pandemic, achieves lifelong dreams

Collaborator: Brittany Harlow
Published: 12/28/2021, 8:57 PM
Edited: 12/29/2021, 3:08 AM

(VINITA, Okla.) “It’s like, it's fulfilling the promise that happened in the 90’s. So, it's finally here.”

Steven Brachtenbach told us he’s been waiting for virtual reality technology to catch up to the hype for three decades.

We've read science fiction and saw the shows and the movies, and went through Lawnmower Man,” Brachtenbach said. “And so we went through the promise that never materialized.”  

He told us back then, VR was only available for consumers to use in malls- and nothing like what exists today.

“Pterodactyl Nightmares was the one everybody knows and remembers, and there was this huge thing,” Brachtenbach said. “You pulled it down over your head and you would like... You do this (demonstrates flying). And that was it. And it was very cool.”


And then, Brachtenbach said, it all went away. 

“Literally just because we didn't have the technology,” Brachtenbach said. “They didn't know where to go from there. 2013, I think it was, when it first started to come back, and that was because of a kid, Luckey. Palmer. Who would figure out, hey, cell phones. They have all the technology we need to do VR.”  

Palmer and Doom creator John Carmack would later come together to build the Oculus, which was purchased by Meta in 2014. 

“It's exciting,” Brachtenbach said. “It's exciting because I have been fortunate enough to live through it. I was in the cell phone industry when it began, and got to see all of that, and I was an advocate for it. And it was beautiful. And then the internet, I got to live through that, and now this. This is almost like those two getting married and here's their kid, the VR world.” 

Brachtenbach opened the Virtual Reality Experience in 2016, one of the first VR family entertainment centers in the world, here in Vinita, Oklahoma. 

He tells us his vision for VRXP materialized through private chats with six of his buddies on Reddit. 

We started to just kind of come up with, can we create like an arcade,” Brachtenbach said. “And just put a couple of machines in. And I've got like 10 of them now, but at the time I had two. And it wasn't to make money; it was to show it off just so people could see. And literally, just before the pandemic, it was like it became a business. It was like I didn't have put money back in, it was paying for itself. I was like, this is exciting. Then the pandemic hit. And it was like, oh, now what?” 

Out of the six of them who opened up shop for others, Brachtenbach told us he’s the only one still in business. And the business is steadily coming back. 

The dream come true is a big pull for 40 percent of his clientele, 40 years old and up.  

The exercise component is another, one Brachtenbach predicts will be a gamechanger for physical fitness. 

“Defending towns and castles against orcs and dragons with bows and arrows, and you're all there together and yelling at each other and pulling back and sweating and kids hate it,” Brachtenbach said. “Because it's a lot of physical work. Adults love it because it's a lot of physical work.”  

Work that burns six to eight calories a minute. 

We get sedentary in our lives as we get older, and so adults come in here, and I have ladies that come in here twice a week, and they do three different apps and they all have their watches and stuff, and they burn on average eight calories a minute at it,” Brachtenbach said. “Sweat is just pouring, and they have a blast doing it.” 

VR is the future, Brachtenbach said. How and when people adapt will be a personal choice. 

All technology change affects us all differently, and technology has its own time scale, has its own momentum,” Brachtenbach said. “Regardless of whether you think it's good or bad, or that it's just a fad. It moves on, and that's what happened with cell phones, with the internet. With the home PC.”  

Meanwhile, he’ll be here in Vinita helping people all over the central United States ease into the Metaverse, adapting to that ever-advancing technology. 

I did get to try a headset last month that was shocking,” Brachtenbach said. “That was like, oh, we haven’t even tried VR yet. You're there. Yeah, it's almost... You literally have to pull it off your head and peak, because it shocks your entire system.”

“So that type of technology is there, and there's tons more coming, so it's not even close. We're not even close.” 

To book a time at VRXP, click here. 


Ann Marie Worthley
01/07/2022, 12:03 AM

Great story!