Spotlight: VRGO - Providing Virtual Reality Solutions in Zambia
Tungamirai Mashamba is a passionate and driven individual, with a tangible streak of entrepreneurial spirit guiding him into establishing Africa’s first free-roam virtual reality arcade right here in Lusaka! VRGO are a family-friendly arcade that offers the latest in virtual reality technology. Whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned gamer, they have something for everyone to enjoy in their VR arena.
"It's been challenging, but also incredibly rewarding."
Even though gaming is the primary focus for VRGO currently, this is only due to the technology being embraced by the video gaming community. According to Tungamirai, the technology has a wide range of applications and is particlulary suited to empowering companies and organisations to train their people with unmatched ability to allow users to immersively experience and practice their actions. Tunga feels a lot can be done to inform the public, especially those in the medical, construction, and other high risk industries, about the benefits of using VR to simulate training without the risks of injury.
We sat down with Tunga for a nice candid chat via Discord about his thoughts on VR and what is happening in the space.
Why VR (Virtual Reality)? What spurred your interest in it?
I’m interested in VR because it offers unique and immersive experiences that are not possible in the real world. As someone fascinated by technology, VR is a natural fit for me, and I enjoy being at the forefront of a rapidly evolving industry. Despite the challenges of running a VR arcade, seeing customers have a great time and leave with unforgettable memories keeps me motivated.
Great! So how did you get into VR? What was your first VR experience?
Well. As an employee of a Microsoft distributor, I noticed that there were no African partners reselling our metaverse products in all of Africa. This caught my attention and piqued my interest in exploring the potential of these products in the African market. I bounced the idea off my business partner who said it was much better than all my other lame ideas lol. I started researching VR technology and eventually decided to buy one headset, then we decided to start the business. It’s been challenging, but also incredibly rewarding.
Fantastic, explain the space, how did you get into it and what were the challenges?
The virtual reality market is a constantly evolving and dynamic space, with new technologies and products being introduced on a regular basis. We became interested in the potential of metaverse products in the African market.and found out that location based entertainment and free roam VR is the easiest way to get people interested.
So we started with setting up free roam Arena’s at kids and family festivals. Next thing we are the VR guys and we get approached for everything VR , exhibitions, birthday parties , custom collaborative environments for businesses.
One of the biggest challenges was the lack of existing infrastructure and knowledge about virtual reality in Africa. This meant that we have to work hard to educate potential customers and partners about the technology and its benefits.
Gotcha, and what sector would you say shows the biggest potential? I know as Nerd Otaku we are primarily interested in the gaming aspect of VR, but is it your biggest market?
While the gaming industry was one of the earliest adopters of VR technology, the potential of virtual reality extends far beyond just gaming. In fact, some of the most promising applications of VR are in industries such as education, healthcare, and manufacturing. Yes, gaming is currently our biggest market, try saying no to a kid crying to play a game of VR 🤣 So products for generation alpha, like education and skills development and entertainment show the biggest potential.
Incredible! You mentioned education being one of the challenges you faced, what are some of the misconceptions people have about VR and how can we change that?
One common misconception about VR is that it’s only for gamers and tech enthusiasts. But the truth is, VR has a wide range of applications and can be used in many different industries.
Another misconception is that VR is only for young people. But the reality is, virtual reality technology can be used by people of all ages, from children to senior citizens. Who says Grandma can’t get in on the VR action?
To change these misconceptions, we need to continue to educate people about the many benefits of VR technology. We can start by showcasing the wide range of applications and industries that can benefit from VR, and highlighting the ways in which it can be used to enhance real-world experiences.
But some customers come up with their own ideas after a few games,”can I do this in VR, can I use VR”. So I think our family friendly games help people with their own misconceptions
So have your industry colleagues shown any interest in what VR can offer for them, or is it still early days?
Still early days. As the products get cheaper definitely, I believe that we are just scratching the surface of what is possible with this technology, and I’m excited to see where it will take us in the future. Mostly my partner’s colleagues in marketing show interest in what VR can offer for them.
So for people interested in trying out VR, tell us a little more about what you do at VRGO? What can they expect to experience when they come for a visit?
At VRGO, we offer a range of virtual reality experiences that are designed to provide customers with a unique and immersive experience. When customers come for a visit, they can expect to be transported to new and exciting worlds, where they can explore, interact, and have fun. So we have 3 section of games: arcade, mostly single player, adventure for up to 6 players and escape room, also multiplayer but like analog escape room games these can take between 20 minutes to 1 hour. Free-roam games put players in a shared physical room together and let them walk around high five each other etc.
But VRGO is not only about the content! Synchronized play space, waiting room lobby, our games can be played by up to 6 players at a time, the play area can range from 4x4m up to 10x10m and the game time can be adapted to your need.
And for the non-gamer, explain an immersive VR experience? If we were to explain to our 70 year old grandmother what it is she would experience, what would you say to her?
Oh wow 🤣 Michie will have to answer this one! Let me find her!
She’s not available, I’ll answer…
Well, grandma, an immersive VR experience is like taking a virtual trip to a whole new world. You wear a special headset that covers your eyes and ears, and it feels like you’re really there. You can explore new places, see and hear things in a completely different way, and have fun without leaving your home.
Ah, Michie is here!
I would say picture ‘Alice in Wonderland’. Entering a whole new world and living it. It truly is a wonderland.
Excellent! Now tell us a little more about you. Are you a gamer or just a lurker?
Lol I’m too busy these days unfortunately just a lurker.I don’t have a personal life or preferences 😂. If I get the chance NBA 2k,fifa and FPS battle royale.
I’m a hybrid.lol. I never involve myself in anything I don’t have at least a considerable amount of passion for. I prefer games to people though. I’m joooking. No for real though.
Cool, so besides gaming and VR, what other hobbies/interests do you have?
Does my day job count? I’m a certified Solutions Architect and a get to lead a portfolio of resellers across south, east and west Africa.
I love to write, watch movies, listen to music and create content. And work out.
OK, top 3 movies you watch recently?
Ah yes something else the founders always do together to relax, the cinema. John Wick Chapter 4, Creed 3, Cocaine Bear.
Haha! Nice selection! Getting back to VRGO, you share the same Rec Room space in which Nerd Otaku will be hosting our LAN on the 15th of April. Would our LAN attendees be able to book some VR experiences on the day?
Yeah we have our usual catalog of games that will be available. But what do you think we have a headset or two VR FPS games available for free for the attendees? Or the half life alyx John wick mod.
Our attendees would love it! Thanks for your time Tunga, we will see you at the LAN this Saturday!
Tunga can be found passionately evanglising the virtues of VR activities at their VR Arcade, and is active on our Discord server.
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