Kansas City could be the virtual reality hub of America, said Michael Eichenseer, predicting Crossroads-located FlipSwitch VR will jumpstart the movement with the help of First Fridays foot traffic.
“The owners [KC natives Jim and Jamie Mahoney] definitely want to expand,” said Eichenseer, host and marketing manager for the “epic scale, free-roam, multiplayer virtual reality” gaming center. “They already have their eyes on Overland Park. That’s very much part of the plan: to make something work here, prove that it’s a viable thing and then start putting locations in other places where the population would utilize it.”
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The Mahoney father-son duo combined their engineering experience to bring FlipSwitch VR to life after realizing the impact and draw of such experiences in other regions across the U.S. and globe, Eichenseer said, noting the Crossroads space’s grand opening in December.
The Mahoneys began the venture at Plexpod Westport Commons, he added, and developed the concept and games with the help of connections at the Johnson County Community College. Four of the original developers stayed on to work at the gaming center as hosts, continuing to tweak the experience.
“I’ve heard them say that two weeks before we opened, the game that they had was completely different from in the beginning. They literally tweaked everything and changed everything right before we opened,” Eichenseer laughed.
The gaming center is mostly funded through family and friends at the moment, said Eichenseer, noting the amount of grant funding available in the metro has been helpful.
Virtual reality can address a concern for parents across the metro, as well as nationwide, he said.
“Exercise is very much a needed thing — we all know its benefits: endorphins, lowered stress, better sleep. What if I can tell you that this box, this screen is going to entertain you and also give you your daily exercise?” he asked. “That alone, if [the experience contributed to] a 1 percent increase in happiness and productivity of a person in their life, you can multiply that by a billion people and that’s significant.”
Though the younger generations play in the space regularly, the experience works for any and all ages, said Eichenseer, noting more and more companies are reaching out to bring large parties to participate in an active experience.
“Even an older, retired man who lives a few blocks away said he’s just always looking for something to do, and he just came in by himself,” Eichenseer said. “He’s like, ‘I want to see what you guys are about, and I want to try it.’”