Teen Wins Big in Virtual Gaming Tournament


Virtual 42 is a relatively new attraction located on 43 E Washington Ave., Washington, NJ. It’s closed on Mondays and Tuesdays, open 3-9 p.m. on Wednesdays and Thursdays, Fridays 3-11 p.m., 11-11 p.m. on Saturdays, and 11 a.m.-5 p.m. on Sundays. (Photo courtesy of Jared Engle)

Emily Deming , Staff Reporter

Video games have always been a big thing for teenagers, spending endless hours playing Fortnite, Minecraft, and Grand Theft Auto, but for Warren Tech sophomore Jared Engle, all those hours have turned into real cash as a result of time spent in Virtual Reality (VR) at a Washington Boro arcade.

Engle has visited Virtual 42 in downtown Washington since the location opened in April 2018, to play different games on an omnidirectional treadmill loading station known as the Virtuix Omni and an HTC Vive headset. People are loaded into a harness with custom slip-on shoes that help immerse them into a virtual world that’s much bigger than the small space it takes up. And Engle’s quick pickup on how to do it led him to win well over $3,000.

“I first went to Virtual 42 because my friend, Katie, had gone there a few times. When I first found out there were tournaments, I decided, ‘Why not?’” said Engle, who went on to compare his feelings on his winnings to that of a lottery, proving the less than $10 per game was well worth it.

But what can you do with the Virtuix Omnis?

Monthly, Omniverse Esports has hosted an international tournament on  Omni Arena, their highly competitive game of strategic defense. Typically, players are on a team with up to four other people (currently only two at Virtual 42) defending one’s health core against swarms of robots to collect a high score, and that is just what Engle is good at.

“I probably practice two times a week every other week. I practice for about a half an hour each time and it definitely pays off,” he said. “I’ve been in first place at least four times, three with a partner and one by myself. I also got third place once with a partner. Recently, I got fifth, but it was only because I was sick. ”

With such a streak for winning, Engle credits real life skill for his virtual success.

“I run Cross Country for my school and it’s come in handy for the physical side of VR,” he said.  “I’m also naturally pretty good at things like aiming and strategizing.”

When asked if he ever doubted his skill, he revealed insight on his climb to the top.

“I usually do better if no one is there watching. I remember I got my highest score when no one was there,” Engle said. “I felt like I didn’t have to impress anyone.”

Cash prizes are sent through PayPal to players or their guardians.  First, second and third place winners receive larger amounts, shared between teams if applicable, but fourth through tenth place all receive a same, smaller amount.

“I bought a new gaming computer and an iPhone  Plus. I also bought a lot of food for my friends and I. We go to Sal’s and CVS,” said Engle. “I have saved about $175 up for a car. ”

Additionally, winners have also received official Omni shirts, their own shoes for the equipment, and in Engle’s case, his own HTC Vive headset.

Engle said he spends a majority of his time at Virtual 42, so how does that affect others parts of his life?

“I try to put work and school first, but I usually go to VR after school,” he said. “If I’m not in actual Virtual Reality, I am chilling there with friends. We get along really well with the owner.”