When Secrets of the Empire, a hyper-reality experience from Lucasfilm, ILMxLAB, and The Void, first opened in 2017 at Downtown Disney in Anaheim, California I asked friends on Twitter who had played it what it was like. Everyone gave it the highest praises and explained that since you're able to walk around and move freely while wearing the headset and gear they didn't experience any nausea. My husband Jason and I own a Playstation VR and most of what I've played I've been ok with but there have been some instances where I've needed to stop because the motion sickness I was experiencing while sitting there was too much for me to handle. I'm extremely sensitive with any sort of movement. Even driving on a windy day and feeling it move against the car makes me feel sick. So this was one of the reasons I was nervous to try out this new virtual reality experience because I personally feel like my sensitivity to motion is much greater than the average human being. I was also anxious because it was something new and I don't typically do very well trying new things. However, after booking our session I didn't do too badly over the next few days waiting for the big day to approach. I actually did feel quite excited!
"The VOID is a whole-body, fully immersive experience, with you, your friends and family physically inside the action. It’s location-based entertainment – that means you visit one of our locations – and you walk into real-time virtual reality that combines interactive sets, real-time effects and amazing technology."
Up to four people can play at one time and since it was just Jason and I playing we were hoping we'd be able to have the room to ourselves. Let's just say the force was definitely with us! Upon arriving we were warmly greeted, given wristbands, and asked to sign a waiver. During this time was when I felt the most anxiety. I heard loud noises coming from the other room where people were playing and we were about to go in so my heart was racing much faster than normal. After signing they explained the rules of the game to us and I also took the time to ask them what to do if I felt anxious or sick while playing. They said at any time I could lift the helmet upwards to take myself out of the game or raise my hand for help. They also said that if I couldn't proceed any further that Jason would be able to continue to play or they would re-start the game for him. This was very comforting to know and also made me feel better considering it was part of his Birthday celebration. I didn't want to ruin it for him!
Prior to getting suited up we stood in front of a large screen where Cassian Andor explained the mission to us. This was a great introduction to the game and it got even better after realizing we'd be in disguise as Stormtroopers! We even got to choose the color of our pauldrons! I chose pink of course.
Before heading in they offered a locker for our personal items. Afterwards we got suited up in a vest and helmet (if you don't like loud noises like me you can control the volume of the game on the headset), which are adjustable so that you can get the perfect fit, and a 20 pound computer pack on our backs! We weren't given any warning about the placement or weight of these packs. I remember exclaiming, "What is that!?". I got used to it within a couple of minutes but this might be something good to know ahead of time for those of you with back problems. Even if you don't have back problems a warning would be wise so that you can be sure you're standing correctly to properly hold the weight.
We were now ready! They directed us to an open room and SUDDENLY...WE WERE IN STAR WARS. I don't know how else to describe it than that. I looked over to my left and Jason was a Stormtrooper with the yellow pauldron he chose. Fun fact, Jason later told me I was a short Stormtrooper! Yep, the virtual reality allows you to see whomever you're playing with as a Stormtrooper at their exact height. How cool is that?
I don't want to give too much of the gameplay away but I will tell you that it really is a completely immersive experience and unlike anything I've ever done before. The sounds, the smells, and the fact that you can touch things and it's ALL STAR WARS is completely mind blowing. One of my favorite moments was picking up a blaster and shooting the other Stormtroopers. I even got shot and FELT IT! That first time I 100% screamed.
After it ended they took our photo and offered a framed hard copy and digital copy for $15 to which we immediately jumped upon. We absolutely loved experiencing this together and wanted to have something to preserve that memory. Our only complaint about our experience is how short the game is. 15 minutes literally seemed to go by in 5 minutes and we know it was because we were having the time of our lives! We hope they create another Star Wars game because we loved it that much.
I can also tell you that I was completely fine throughout the entire game. At no point did I feel nauseous or anxious. There was one part where it feels like you are high up on a small platform and Jason reached for my hand because he knew I might feel scared. It was a little scary but I was more in awe than anything else. If you also have anxiety or easily experience a queasy stomach I believe you'll be fine. I think it helps to know that you can lift the helmet up and stop at any time. It makes it worth giving it a try and I am SO glad I did.
If you're a Star Wars fan you need to do this! Tickets range from $29.95-$34.95 depending on the day and location. The Secrets of the Empire is available to play in Anaheim, CA - Glendale, CA - Las Vegas, NV - and Orlando, FL. Visit The Void website for more information and to purchase tickets!
If you have ANY questions at all about Secrets of the Empire and/or my experience please leave a comment below or feel free to Tweet or email me.