Tulsan turns video game into reality play-time
BY KYLE ARNOLD World Staff Writer
Tuesday, August 21, 2012
8/21/12 at 3:57 AM
Tony Johnson has found a way to put himself and his willing customers into the center of a zombie survival movie.
Inside a 10,000-square-foot former arcade at the Mall 31 shopping center, Johnson has turned a vacant retail space into a zombie-filled maze, creating a post-apocalyptic scenario where diseased corpses hunt for human flesh.
Customers tend to share his enthusiasm.
"I love zombie horror movies, and how do you get closer than this?" said Johnson, who has a daytime job in advertising.
He opened the role-play and tactical survival center called Viking Airsoft in July, using the fast-growing "airsoft" trend combined with some elements that might appeal to average consumers who are not obsessed with military and tactical games.
Airsoft is a growing industry of plastic pellet gun-shooting where participants engage in close-quarter military tactic scenarios. It's similar to paintball with less mess, and uses referees and an honor system to keep score.
Johnson was inspired to open Viking Airsoft by his 13-year-old son, who plays airsoft games with his friends and has watched zombie movies like "Dawn of the Dead" with his father.
Dad found a vacant space and spent two months building moveable plywood walls and decorating the space to recreate scenes from his favorite horror genre.
Johnson runs airsoft military tactic games and parties Sunday through Thursday, but on Friday and Saturday nights he dims the lights and unleashes a few costumed zombies and sends eight customers at a time into the post-apocalyptic maze on a mission drawn from movies, video games and comic books.
When they're hit, the zombies fall to the ground, only to move on to another area and go after other players. In the zombie survival game, players team up to complete missions.
"We try to make it as much like the movies or video games as possible," Johnson said. "We split up the games into different missions like Save the Scientist or Find the Medicine Kit. And the entire time you're being hunted by zombies."
The facility uses low-powered airsoft pistols along with protective vests and goggles.
"You can feel yourself getting hit, but it doesn't leave a mark or anything," Johnson said.
Players even have to hunt for fully loaded weapons if their guns run out of ammunition.
For the military style games, referees are employed to keep score, but in the survival scenarios only zombies are intentionally shot.
In four weeks of operation, Viking Airsoft is starting to draw bigger crowds for the Friday and Saturday night events. The 30-minute survival scenarios start at 7 p.m and run every 45 minutes, with the last game at 11:30 p.m.
The zombie survival games cost $10 per customer, and guns and protective gear are included.
"A lot of the games are starting to sell out," Johnson said. "And it's not just the die-hard airsoft players that are coming. We get a lot of young adults and couples out here just to have a good time."
Viking Airsoft Zombie Survival Nights
Friday and Saturday, 7 p.m. to midnight
Duration: 30 minutes
plus 15 minutes of safety
Location: 5970 E. 31st St.,
Original Print Headline: Zapping zombies
Kyle Arnold 918-581-8380
Keri Gross of Owasso aims her airsoft pellet gun at a "zombie" while playing "Zombie Apocalypse" at Viking Airsoft, a new entertainment facility in Tulsa. JAMES GIBBARD / Tulsa World
Airsoft pellet guns are displayed inside the Viking Airsoft recreation facility.