ST. JOSEPH — It’s been a two-year process, but Mark and Stephanie Rutherford got their wish.
After opening CrazeVR nearly a month ago, the two co-owners are getting a taste of what it means to bring gaming to a community.
“I love watching people get on VR for the first time,” Mark said. “I wanted to put my love of games with tech and give it to other people.”
Mark’s always been a PC gamer, but discovered virtual reality in Chicago several years ago.
However, the idea to start the business came two years ago when the Rutherfords took their daughter to a virtual reality lounge.
“We loved it so much we stayed an extra hour,” Mark said.
At 2560 S. Cleveland Ave., Suite 5 in St. Joseph Township, CrazeVR offers six units that have access to at least 71 gaming experiences.
The Rutherfords can accommodate up to 43 people in the building for parties or corporate events that involve team-building activities.
There’s a room and lounge upstairs for people to hang out in if they aren’t using any VR equipment.
CrazeVR uses HTC Vive Pro virtual reality headsets, which Mark said are the newest versions for the gaming system. The headsets are cordless, so no tethering is required.
So far, they’ve had customers as young as 7 years old and as old as 84.
“There are opportunities for exercising with it, if you want to change up your workouts,” Stephanie said. “There are STEM programs in there as well.”
One of the games that has gotten some attention is referred to as “Becoming Homeless.”
In it, players are given an opportunity to understand the plight of being evicted and subsequently left homeless.
The Rutherfords have also taken the opportunity to create a wall dedicated to a game known as “Richie’s Plank Experience.” Those who are brave enough to walk out onto a virtual plank are able to sign a wall.
“We use that as a way to introduce people who are skeptical of VR,” Stephanie said.
While they have been considering the business idea for two years, nothing came to fruition until earlier this year.
“When the opportunity presented itself to do it now, we thought ‘lets pull the trigger,” Stephanie said. “Mark hit the ground running and made sure everything came together right – not quick.”
Each unit can be rented for $25 an hour – unless customers are members. It’s $20 per hour for members, who pay a $25 monthly fee.
CrazeVR is open from 2-8 p.m. on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday and 1-11:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. While the business is closed Wednesday and Sunday, the Rutherfords can open for a party that wants to schedule a session for one of those days.
Appointments can be made online, over the phone or in person.
Mark said they’ve enjoyed the first month in business, but are prepared for growth. Stephanie said they would like to collaborate with area schools to set up field trips for students who could virtually visit places around the world.
“Eventually we would like to franchise. We’re not sure where yet or what that looks like,” Mike said. “We would like to bring sports into the community, VR-wise.”
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