Strap on your proton packs: An insanely realistic VR experience in Times Square is making dreams come true for every Ghostbusters superfan who has ever longed to zap some spooks. Designed by trailblazing VR studio The Void, Ghostbusters: Dimension is lauded as the world’s first hyper-reality experience. Most VR experiences tether viewers to a computer, but this attraction lets prospective paranormal investigators gear up and go rogue.
Toting a proton pack, plasma blaster, and a pair of Ecto-VR-Goggles, you wander a virtual haunted hotel mapped to real walls and furniture while hunting down CG ghosts to bust. Ghostbusters: Dimension drops viewers into a series of rooms equipped with fun house-like moving floors and jump scares. Crossing plasma streams and getting hit by aggressive spirits triggers haptic feedback and leaves a trail of CG slime. An incredible scene on a rickety balcony offers sweeping views of the New York City skyline under siege by spooks. Gingerly crossing a swaying fire escape, you forget you are in a padded room with a computer strapped to your face, and the fear of tumbling to your death is very, very real.
“Haptics are directional now, which is fantastic, because if a ghost hits you on the right side and bursts through your left, you’ll feel it first on the right and then on your left. It’s positioned according to where the objects are in space, which makes the sensation feel very real,” The Void’s chief creative cfficer, Curtis Hickman, tells The Creators Project. “But it’s the little, discoverable things that I most enjoy, like the wind hitting your face, or when I see someone shoot a cuckoo clock and it bursts into a million pieces. We spent a lot of time on that to make sure it looked really cool when it blew up, so I love when people notice the details.”
Hickman designed illusions for the likes of David Copperfield and Chris Angel before pursuing VR, and the magic industry made him a master of getting spectators to question their reality. “With VR, you have to imagine the experience of the spectator. It’s the same designing a magic trick. Magic’s an ancient art, and it’s often done poorly, but when it’s done right it’s one of the most impressive art forms in the world. VR could learn a lot from magic, especially when it comes to creating the illusion of reality,” Hickman says. His background helped crack the problem of how to map choice-driven VR games to physical environments without needing sets the size of convention centers. Disappearing acts inspired him to craft rooms with dynamic, movable walls, allowing creators to build endless worlds within a 60-square-foot space.
Ghostbusters: Dimension is part of a larger homage to the franchise reboot at Madame Tussauds wax museum, a known tourist trap which, fittingly enough, traffics in disconcerintly realistic installations all the time. The extended exhibit is a recreation of the Ghostbusters set, peopled by spooky tech tricks such as a Slimer hologram terrorizing an elevator bank. But the scariest part of the show is easily the wax replicas of Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon, and Leslie Jones. The hyper-reality experience is a marvel, however, and Ghostbusters cosplay superfans (like the New York City, New Jersey, and Long Island Ghostbusters chapters) give it their stamp of approval.
“I love seeing kids and superfans go through it," Hickman says. "They come out almost misty-eyed and say, ‘That’s what it’s like to be a Ghostbuster.’ And that’s awesome. What more could you ask for? What better authority than someone who lives and breathes Ghostbusters to come out and tell you you did a good job."
Experience a taste of Ghostbusters VR installation with the video below:
Ghostbusters: Dimension is at Madame Tussauds New York in Times Square. Tickets start at $49.75 and are available here.