Arts & Entertainment

New Virtual Reality Entertainment Lounge Opens in Evanston

Emily RoscaThe PHOENIX received an early look at Lock Chicago's new virtual reality lounge.

Evanston’s Lock Chicago (820 Davis St., Suite 151) is bringing a unique entertainment experience to the city with its new virtual reality lounge. At the virtual reality lounge, guests can explore the depths of the ocean and the unknowns of space — an unforgettable adventure.

The PHOENIX visited Lock Chicago’s virtual reality lounge and spoke to co-owner Brian Lee about the company’s roots and future. Lee, alongside his childhood friends-turned-business-partners Bane Srdjevic and Alex Wilson, opened Lock Chicago in 2015. Lock Chicago, an entertainment facility with escape rooms and a virtual reality lounge, was originally located in a different building in Evanston, but as of 2017 moved down the block to a more spacious location. According to Lee, Lock Chicago was the seventh escape room to open in the state.

“As of last month, there are 107 [escape rooms in Illinois],” Lee said. “It’s crazy to see how quickly they’ve grown.”

Lee, Srdjevic and Wilson, who are Purdue University graduates, wanted to give college students more recreational opportunities.  

“Evanston was a cool city for us to be in and to get Northwestern, Loyola and the schools in that general area and give them something to do,” Lee said. “We know how it was, especially going to school in West Lafayette, Indiana, there really wasn’t much to do besides the five bars or whatever you did. I can only image having something like this back when I was in school to do something like that.”

Lock Chicago’s private lounge features two state-of-the-art virtual reality headsets — the gateway to escaping reality and living virtually.

The lounge offers a variety of games and puzzles to choose from — guests can swim with colorful fish, go hunting for ducks in an exotic country or slash fruits in “Fruit Ninja,” all through the headset’s technology.

A particularly riveting experience includes a climb to the top of a skyscraper, where people can feel like they’re walking onto a ledge hundreds of feet from the ground. For those brave souls, stepping off the ledge and free-falling into the abyss is breathtaking, literally. The ledge appears as if it’s a tightrope and one wrong move will result in a virtual death. It’s so convincing, a player might forget he or she is standing on solid ground.

Because virtual reality is a relatively new concept, Lee said Lock Chicago will evolve as technology continues to advance. Lee said the lounge features the most recent edition of virtual reality headsets and, while it currently only has enough to support two players at one time, the goal is to integrate two more headsets and transform the lounge into a virtual escape room.

When reserving the virtual reality lounge, a group can include up to eight people. Since the lounge can currently support only two players at one time, group members will have to take turns using the equipment.

Emily Rosca
Emily RoscaLock Chicago has recently opened its new virtual reality entertainment lounge.

“The goal is to have that as a four-person escape room, so you would put on the headset and you would see your friend … while you’re fighting zombies,” Lee said.

Lock Chicago’s main attractions are its three escape rooms — Sunburn, Matsuri and Malfunction — meant for one to 10 players. Each room is decorated based on a specific theme. The rooms feature challenges, puzzles and riddles, which are used to reach the end goal of unlocking the door and walking out of the room. Each theme and puzzle is designed by the Lock Chicago team and unique to the company, which Lee said makes Lock Chicago stand out.

Despite the company’s name, the doors to the escape rooms aren’t locked. Players have an hour to “escape” the room, and if a player was to exit the room before the time’s up, he or she wouldn’t be allowed back in.

While Lock Chicago’s only location is in Evanston, Lee said the goal is to open locations across the country, each with unique escape rooms.

“For us, [our motivation] was creating something in-house that you’re not going to find anywhere else in the world because they’re our designs,” Lee said. “The nice thing is, yes, it’s the same model, but we don’t want to take these same escape rooms we have here and put them in California. It’s coming up with brand-new escape rooms and allowing people to try something that they’re not used to.”

When booking an escape room, guests have the option to book a private or public room. Several groups can book the same public room for the same time frame, which is the perfect way to meet new people.

“It’s cool seeing complete strangers come together in something that’s pretty awkward at first, since you’re going into a room not knowing what to do and seeing them unite, have fun,” Lee said. “The best thing is seeing people go out for food and get drinks after and literally an hour and a half ago no one knew about each other. It’s a cool experience seeing all of that.”

Lock Chicago’s virtual reality lounge and escape rooms are the perfect excuse to take a break from an over-frequented restaurant or bar, and indulge in a new experience perfect for weekend adventures.  

The virtual reality lounge and escape rooms can be reserved online at www.lockedchicago.com. Escape rooms are priced at $20 per person for an hour and the virtual reality lounge is $29.95 per person for an hour.

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Arts & Entertainment Editor

Emily Rosca hails from Chicago and is majoring in print journalism and minoring in French. She constantly searches for the truth — which is better: hamburgers or pizza. Find out what she decides on Instagram @thelokalnomads.

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