A company in Santa Monica made a game where players can show their inner LeBron James or Kawhi Leonard in the metaverse, where anything is possible, by wearing a pair of virtual reality headsets and holding a pair of controllers inside their house.
Gym Class VR, which can be accessed through Meta’s App Lab, brings people together in the virtual world to play virtual basketball against other players from all over the world, giving them the same sense of community and physical exercise.
Paul Katsen, co-founder and chief product officer of IRL Studios, the company that made Gym Class, told Spectrum News, “Our goal is to build a digital sport and create digital basketball superstars,”
IRL Studios has done something else to make it happen.
Gym Class VR just got more than $8 million in a seed round to keep making the game for the metaverse. It has more than 64 million TikTok views from players who share their videos on social media.
The money came from Andreessen Horowitz, a venture capital firm, and other angel investors.
In a press release, Andreessen Horowitz executives said that this virtual reality game marks the beginning of a new digital age.
Andrew Chen, a partner at Andreessen Horowitz, said in a press release, “We are convinced that games, virtual worlds, and digital sports will be the new social networks; Gym Class signals the dawn of digital sports. It has the traction and has the right team behind it to realize the true potential of social VR. We are strong believers in the vision and the team who have already proven Gym Class has a massive audience and opportunity.”
In 2020, a group of IT friends who liked basketball came up with Gym Class as a side project. It was a way for the group of friends to feel like they were on a basketball court together again.
Katsen is from Chicago but now lives in Austin. He said that the basketball court is where he hangs out with friends, relaxes, and catches up.
Katsen says that many social goods are becoming less social, even though social media is meant to bring people together. So, he and his partners worked on making a game that would bring people together at the same time in the virtual world. Late in 2020, Gym Class VR was made, and the next year, a prototype was ready.
Once a player starts the game, they can choose from many different modes. There are shooting games, passing drills, and “open court” games. The person can play a one-on-one or three-on-three game with friends on a public court. The player can also make an avatar and give it a unique look.
In traditional basketball video games, players sit on a couch and use their thumbs on a portable controller to control their virtual selves. However, players who use virtual reality headsets and joystick controllers often have to act out the basketball action.
To jump, a player must get down low and straighten their legs. In order to shoot, a player must act out a real shot.
He said, “It’s a workout and burning hundreds of calories,” About a million copies of the free game have been downloaded from Meta/Oculus’ AppLab. Katsen said that the community would grow and get new services, like leagues and fitness programs, with the extra investment money. “We expect it to come out in the fall on the Oculus shop,” he said.
People’s biggest complaint about virtual reality is that it can’t replace real life. If someone wants to play basketball, they should go outside. Katsen, on the other hand, looks at things in a different way. When it gets dark, or even at 3 a.m., most people can’t play basketball. He said, “The truth is that we’re not in competition with people who go out and play.” “We’re making their digital experience better by raising the bar.”