When video game technology first burst onto the scene a few decades ago, it was too expensive for the average person to purchase their own.

Before the likes of Nintendo and Sega made mass-produced gaming systems affordable for almost everybody, gamers had little choice but to trudge to their nearest arcade to get their hands on cutting-edge gaming technology.

The popularity of arcades has since waned – but a new company in Waterloo is hoping to change that, using a new form of emerging technology.

Ctrl V, a virtual reality arcade setting up shop on Columbia Street, opens its doors to the public this week.

CEO Ryan Brooks says it’s the first VR arcade anywhere in Canada.

“You have a headset that basically puts the screen around your face,” he explains.

“You’re no longer watching from a third perspective – you are the character now.”

The arcade has already held a soft launch with an open house, which attracted hundreds of people.

James Elligson, the company’s chief operating officer, says their games and technology received a strong reception.

“Everybody was so positive. They all wanted to come back,” he said.

He also notes that VR games might have a lower barrier to entry than traditional video games, because everyone is new to the technology – meaning more apprehensive gamers can’t be awed by the talents of veterans.

“Nobody’s better than anybody else, at this point,” he said.

Both Brooks and Elligson are based locally and have other jobs – Brooks is a substitute teacher, while Elligson works at a jewelry store – but say Waterloo was an obvious candidate for them to launch their VR arcade concept, given the area’s strong technology centre.

They are interested in franchising the concept out, and have already heard from a number of parties interested in bringing the Ctrl V model to other communities.

When the Waterloo arcade opens Wednesday, it will feature 16 gaming stations – each of which can be reserved for $20 per hour – and a selection of 10 games.

That selection will likely expand in the future with special in-house offerings, as Brooks has brought on co-op students from the University of Waterloo to develop new games for the VR platform.