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Virtual-reality arcade coming to downtown Durham July 22 courtesy Augmentality Labs

Augmentality Labs will move into 207 N. Church St. on July 22.
Augmentality Labs will move into 207 N. Church St. on July 22. The Herald-Sun

Downtown Durham is already getting one nostalgia-soaked bar arcade — featuring pinball and classic 1980s arcade games — but now an arcade focused on the future of gaming is set to join the scene.

Augmentality Labs, which calls itself North Carolina’s first virtual-reality arcade, is set to open on 207 N. Church St. on July 22. The arcade is building six 100-square-foot gaming stations, where arcade-goers can use the HTC Vive — a virtual-reality set that retails at nearly $800.

“I think it really is the future of gaming,” owner Alicia Hetrick said about investing in the technology.

Four of the gaming stations will be available to book online and the other two will be available for walk-in customers. The stations can be set up for multiplayer or single player. The arcade will also feature old-school games such as Sega Genesis and Nintendo 64, as well as food. “It’s meant to be a hang-out space,” Hetrick said.

The arcade is co-founded by Hetrick and her wife Alex Markello, two veterans who recently moved to Durham after leaving the military. After being stationed in Fort Bragg, the two fell in love with the state of North Carolina, especially Durham, which they often visited.

Hetrick also runs NC Escape, an escape room and private event space located on Orange Street downtown.

Virtual reality gaming, which lets users strap on a headset that places them in a 360-degree video environment, has been the future of gaming for a while. But the technology has suffered from the same setbacks that a lot of new gaming platforms have, which is a steep price and a lack of popular games made specifically for the platform.

But, Hetrick believes the technology has progressed far enough that she can take a risk on opening a business dedicated to virtual reality gaming. She became a true believer after demoing the HTC Vive at a Microsoft store several months ago. The system makes first-player games especially entertaining, she said.

“There are a handful of these virtual-reality arcades around the country, but we’re excited to be getting in at the ground level right here in Durham,” Hetrick said. “We’re providing something that no other spot in North Carolina has right now.”

Augmentality Labs plans to be open on weeknights and weekends. Walk-in sessions will cost $1 per minute for a minimum of 10 minutes, and 30-minute sessions (which can be pre-booked online) will cost $20 per session.

Private sessions for birthday parties or social events start at $180 for four stations per hour.

Zachery Eanes: 919-419-6684, @zeanes

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