The Food and Gaming Concept of Your Augmented-Reality Dreams Has Arrived
The new iCompete Experience in North Texas brings together high-tech golf simulators and a pour-your-own-beer wall
It wasn’t long ago that food was consumed at restaurants and baseballs were hit in batting cages. Cocktails were mixed behind bars and axes were thrown outdoors, away from the soft human form. Those days are behind us, and in the past couple years we’ve seen a proliferation of North Texas venues merging restaurants with interactive sports and bar games.
The latest salvo in the everything-under-one-roof category is iCompete Experience, a 30,000-square-foot entertainment venue that opened earlier this year in Lewisville, Texas. The company calls it a “fully immersive active sports ‘eatertainment’ concept that is a convergence of e-sports, augmented reality, simulation and immersive technology.” There’s also a DIY tap wall where you can pour your own beers.
What a time to be alive.
The Augmented Reality Games
Across iCompete’s spacious complex, you’ll find golf simulators, batting cages, axe-throwing lanes and dart boards, each different from the typical examples you’re used to. The golf bays are equipped with turf, screens and high-speed cameras, so you can smash balls into the screen as you practice, play games or play a full 18 holes. The graphics and ball flight are a lot more realistic than your favorite dive bar’s beer-soaked Golden Tee machine.
If you’d rather hit baseballs, you can face off against a virtual pitcher for a home run derby or multi-inning games. Watch the pitcher’s wind up and ready your stance as the ball comes shooting out of the screen — you can choose from speeds ranging from 35 to 100 miles per hour. The latter should probably be reserved for MLB hopefuls, but give it a whirl if you’d like to see what it’s like to hit pro-level speeds. Each time you make contact, you’ll see the outcome played out on screen, whether it’s a double off the wall or a weak ground ball to the shortstop.
Darts and axe throwing are a little less intense, but they improve on the usual examples with automatic scoring. (No one wants to do math when they’re drinking.) And each game lets you compete individually or against friends.
“Everything we have is true augmented reality,” says iCompete CEO William Choung. “This isn’t like VR games you play at home — you’re hitting a real golf ball and baseball; you’re throwing real axes and darts.”
The Food and (Wall of) Drinks
Playing sports and bar games no longer means you’re subject to stadium-level food. It’s not that we’d ever besmirch a good hot dog or fries served in a little plastic helmet. It’s just that, sometimes, you want to have a real meal and quality drinks before throwing axes or during a self-imposed seventh-inning stretch. You can do that here.
The extensive menu includes wings, tacos, flatbreads, burgers, sandwiches and bowls. You might start with some pretzel bites or carne asada fries before moving onto Nashville hot chicken tacos or a patty melt. Or maybe you’d rather have sweet potato tots followed by gochujang-spiced wings and a piri piri chicken pizza with mozzarella, pickled Fresno chiles and crispy garlic. None of these things will do your grip any favors, but they’ll keep you from having to leave to eat dinner.
The pièce de résistance of this entire concept may be the beer wall. It’s dotted with 40 taps that you can operate yourself. To use it, score a PourMyBeer card from the reception desk, then fill it with money or link it to your open tab. Once armed with a card, you control your own destiny. Swipe it at one of the taps, and start pouring — a display shows the volume and cost, so you can fill up a pint glass or dole out a few ounces at a time to sample a variety of beers.
For now, Lewisville is the only place to go for iCompete, which is convenient for North Texans but less so for the rest of the state. Fortunately, Choung says the company is looking at expanding into new locations, and he hopes to open a second location next year. Until then? Road trip.
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