Broadmead shopping centre just got a whole lot more technical with the opening of the UK’s largest gaming arena, complete with 24 state-of-the-art computers, consoles and virtual reality systems.
Belong by GAME on Merchant Street will house a competitive gaming arena for aficionados to drop into. It will also become the home of the Bristol Smugglers, a team or ‘clan’ of gamers who will compete against Bristol’s other Belong arena (based at The Mall, Cribbs Causeway), and against other cities’ clans.
Belong is also home to cutting-edge Virtual Reality (VR) technology, with players able to try out the HTC VIVE virtual reality headsets fitted in the shop. These offer a totally immersive gaming experience, along with the ability to immerse oneself in other experiences such as a virtual holiday.
Arena manager Chris Taylor gives me the tour of the space, shortly after it opens to the public. “VR gives you full immersion: you can be quickly sucked in to the virtual world and there are no limits,” he says. “Each time on VR is a new experience. I really can’t predict what may come in the future.”
While there are other gaming arenas around the country, this is the first to stand separately from a shop unit. The Broadmead space also features a bar, for customers to buy both British and American soft drinks and snacks.
Using one of the computer units costs £5 for an hour gaming session, while it is £2 for a single VR session.
“It doesn’t matter how much money you have: now everyone can afford to use the best gaming equipment money can buy in an environment filled with other gamers,” Chris continues. “Everything in this shop is an experience. Belong is one of the greatest ventures I’ve ever been involved in with gaming.”
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