Inside West Chester’s Virtual Reality Arcade
Co-founders Brady Bagwan and Josh Smith, who were inspired by the growing global trend, opened Neverland VR in October.
West Chester's Neverland VR opened in October 2018. Photos by Rachel Spurlock.
A zombie apocalypse, a thrilling car chase and a boxing tournament for the ages have taken over West Chester—in a manner of speaking. Those are just a few of a many virtual reality experiences and games on offer at the borough’s Neverland VR, which opened in late October.
The area’s first VR arcade, Neverland is the brainchild of longtime friends Brady Bagwan and Josh Smith, who met while serving in the Army at the DMZ in South Korea. After bouncing around the globe from Iraq to Colorado, the two settled their families in Pennsylvania. After leaving the Army, Bagwan pursued his bachelor’s degree in computer science and later got his MBA, while Smith went on to law school.
The virtual reality component didn’t come in until later and only by chance. Last year, the Bagwans took a trip to New York City. Bagwan’s wife, Lynn, wanted to see a Broadway show, but the rest of the family wanted to spend the afternoon at a nearby virtual reality arcade. Once they tried it, they were hooked.
“A light bulb went off,” says Lynn. “When we looked around [the arcade], there were so many different types of people, all different ages, all different walks of life. We were like, ‘This is amazing and we need to do this.’”
Both Bagwan and Smith—who live in West Bradford Township and Hershey, respectively—were interested in working together, so Bagwan proposed a virtual reality concept. They both agreed and soon set up shop in West Chester.
Thanks to their varied backgrounds, they were able to build the business from the ground up, including the ever-important computers. “I don’t think Josh and Brady slept much before our opening,” jokes Lynn. “It really was a labor of love—they put so much into it.”
Today, Neverland VR boasts top-of-the-line equipment from the custom-built computer processors to the Vive-Pro headsets, which support a fun, life-like gaming experience.
Since opening, they’ve even hosted a tournament where gamers went head-to-head in “Beat Saber” (think “Guitar Hero” meets light sabers) for a cash prize. The tournament was a huge success, pulling in e-sports gamers from as far as Arkansas. “We will definitely be doing more tournaments,” says Bagwan.
This is just the beginning, though. Bagwan and Smith are already looking into the future of e-sports and virtual reality, as well as the integration of VR technology in education. “I imagine this is the future,” Smith says.
Pricing ranges from $15 an hour for seated games to $75 for a more interactive, two-hour experience. The facility is also available to rent out for private parties and events.
209 W. Market St., West Chester.
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