Despite how quickly technology advances today, it sometimes feels like we’ve never really caught up with the lofty sci-fi ambitions of old Hollywood movies. 1982 movie Tronfor example, presented us with a neon-tinted vision of the future, where players could compete in fully digital sports. Despite all of our advancements in virtual reality (VR) technology in recent years, something like The Grid still feels alien.
But that could be about to change. Arcadia.tv is an early idea that promises to be the future of sports. It combines sports and e-sports to create a digital experience that still requires sport. Participants gather in a physical arena, perform Oculus Quests, and compete in games that combine the basics of sports and classic video games. The game will be broadcast on Arcadia’s social media channels for everyone to watch. After operating in secrecy for three years, Arcadia.tv is ready to bring modern sports to the world.
I sat down with Arcadia.tv CEO Chris Olimpo to learn more about how it all works. According to Olimpo, Arcadia is the “missing link between esports and traditional sports” that aims to fix a major problem with the impending metaverse.
More Tron, Less Wall-E
Arcadia.tv has been quietly growing for three years. The spark for the idea came as Olimpo was working in the VR industry, creating VR experiences for major clients like Universal (Olimpo had previously produced and directed a Tom Cruise VR movie). While enamored with technology, Olimpo becomes anxious about the direction he sees it taking us in.
“We did this amazing thing at South by Southwest, where we had people sitting on these big red chairs,” Olimpo told Digital Trends. “I immediately thought of Wall E and think, ‘Oh no, this is not the future we have to build.’ And then I looked at Tron and said, ‘That’s the future we have to build. How do we build that? ‘”
To combat his fear of a chaotic future, Olimpo founded Arcadia.tv. The unique blend of video games and sports puts the physical at the forefront in VR. Players compete in the digital space, but it’s more active than your standard video game. Competitors use their body as a controller, dashing around an actual arena in real time alongside their opponents.
It looks a lot like something you will see in Ready Player One, Is called concept of the metaverse to the mind. Companies like Epic and Facebook have spent the past few years bringing the concept of the metaverse to life by deepening our digital experiences. Arcadia fits that great future so well, Olimpo calls it “the sport of the metaverse”. But as companies like Epic create content for players to sit at their computers and play, Arcadia wants to ensure that we are living healthy lives in an increasingly digital future.
“Honestly, it’s our push to keep humanity in the metaverse,” Olimpo said. “I think technology will serve best when it speeds up the human experience… Arcadia is something that is trying to remind the world that the body we have is very important. Your brain will not function well without a healthy body. If you’re going to experience something in the metaverse, you might want to run around and play rather than lie down and rush in. “
Arcadia.tv has a number of games specifically designed for players to compete in. They tend to combine the basics of a real sport with ideas from classic games. For example, a game with players running between moving digital barriers. It’s basically Frogger Meet track and field reality.
The influence of video games is not an accident. Olimpo recalls a philosophy-driven anecdote about how Arcadia’s games were built with audiences in mind.
“We were at a trade show a few years ago and no one was waiting in line to buy virtual reality,” says Olimpo. “There is this small one Galaga and i started playing. I broke 50,000, and a small crowd began to form around me. My colleague asked, ‘What happened there?’ and I said, ‘I broke 100,000 in Galaga. ‘ There’s an audience experience built into this; VR doesn’t have that.”
Although Arcadia.tv is not yet broadcast to viewers, the team itself is their current audience. They watched as competitors played the program and found themselves amazed at the results. Olimpo is particularly baffling that gamers tend to outperform athletes on tests, despite the latter having some physical advantages.
“With someone who is very athletic versus someone who is a super gamer, you really don’t know who will win,” Olimpo said. “Some very healthy people just go and aren’t necessarily familiar with the patterns in video games, while gamers really get it. Gamers learn very quickly and they learn over and over again. In the first five levels, you’re pretty sure a runner will win, and then there’s a tipping point where the player just has to pass them. “
That highlights the unique skills required for both sports and esports. The latter may not require physical fitness, but quick reaction times and adaptability are paramount skills for professional gamers. Arcadia creates a level playing field between those two disparate worlds.
This idea paid off for Arcadia. The company recently partnered with Warner Bros. to create the official Space Jam experience. The basketball game has players running around the field, picking up digital balls and shooting them in a circle. Olimpo compares it to Pac-Man, with players chasing small bullets but taking the core idea of basketball.
It’s a premium partnership for a startup that hasn’t really started yet. Arcadia is holding nationwide testing to find competitors. It will eventually follow up with that with live game broadcasts on its social media channels. For the team, the sky is the limit. What Arcadia is doing has never really been attempted in this capacity, and Olimpo is very hopeful about where it might go.
“We are looking to level the playing field and respect esports. Just like how the Olympics used to have chess and really respected the cognitive abilities of chess, I think esports has a place at the Olympics. But with something like Arcadia, I think it makes it more bearable for the masses. There’s something about combining cognitive and physical competition in a new way, and the truth is, we’ll do it with or without the Olympics.”
The only potential barrier to Arcadia is that it is completely dependent on outside technology. The team relies on hardware manufacturers, using the Oculus Rift headset to run the game. Just an hour before our conversation, Oculus recalled the foam padding in Quest 2 due to reports of skin irritation. Any small problem with technology is a logistical challenge for Arcadia. Funny enough, though, the company has created custom antiperspirant padding for use in the Oculus, putting them one step ahead of actual manufacturers. Olimpo doesn’t rule out a future where Arcadia simply creates its own VR headset and eliminates the middleman entirely.
Everything about Arcadia.tv is forward-looking. It’s not a quick way to get cash but trying to leverage esports or VR. It’s a well thought out project and doesn’t just want to be part of the process towards the metaverse; it wants to redefine it. Olimpo envisioned a future where the way we think about video games is completely different from how we see them today.
“I see a future where parents will say to their kids, ‘Why don’t you go out and play video games? “” I said.