Story By Derek Hercovici / Photos By Robert Noles
Reality has been tough lately. After a long, hot, socially distanced summer, the coronavirus pandemic hasn’t left us yet. But there’s a place you can go and escape the real world, where fun is the only priority and the options for entertainment are endless.
Welcome to CyberZone, a massive gaming arcade and laser tag experience that begins the moment you walk through the door.
“My favorite part of CyberZone is it blocks out the outside,” said Managing Director Simon Bak. “When it’s storming and raining and just awful outside, there’s no difference in CyberZone. Between the lights, the sound and everything, you can just get lost in that world.”
When CyberZone first opened in June 2013, Bak and the other founders had a simple but lofty goal: bring the kind of big-city entertainment found in New York, Atlanta and San Francisco right to Lee County, but at small-town prices. A former cast member at Disney for eight years, Bak wanted from the beginning to create an immersive entertainment experience for guests of all
After opening with an 18-game arcade and a moderately sized laser tag arena, CyberZone has grown over the years to incorporate dining, Esports, retro arcade games and more. Built inside an old grocery store, CyberZone opened at only 50% capacity and expanded to 8% more, with plenty of room to continue growing.
“The more successful that the business became, [the more] we reinvested all of our profits to grow the company,” Bak said. “And it worked, because it was more organic than just trying to open a huge facility and hope it works for the next 10 years.”
One of the biggest evolutions to CyberZone was the arrival of the Esports lobby, born out of a booming interest in arena-sized competitive games like League of Legends and Overwatch. Bak and his team research the cutting edge in gaming tech in Las Vegas and Orlando, Fla., then worked with gaming giant Alienware to build the 18 desktop stations used at CyberZone. They even installed their own built-in server specific for Esports to serve as an official competition center that could connect gamers to international events.
“We thought this was a good fit, it was progressive; we needed something that would stand out and not be another ‘normal-ish’ type of attraction,” Bak said. “Esports is definitely the fore of what a lot of people were looking at.”
Unfortunately, due to the coronavirus pandemic, Bak had to shut down the Esports center, as well as the restaurant, but hopes to reopen them in a limited capacity later in the year. That isn’t the only change he’s made to keep CyberZone open: hand-sanitizers, games spaced six feet apart and cleaning wipes near every arcade are helping to keep things running.
But even the pandemic can’t stop CyberZone’s growth. Bak plans to have an “exterior upgrade” to the building’s nondescript façade in time for the renovation of 1st Avenue, as well as bring more “adult things” like a restaurant expansion in the near future. Laser tag is slated for a major renovation that would allow physical spectators in the area separate from the game.
“We’re at the forefront of learning how to use this to make the experience even more interactive,” Bak said.
The CyberZone is the namesake attraction, and for good reason — a sprawling map, state-of-the-art equipment and more lights than a disco await novice and experienced players alike. Up to 28 players on two teams have over 6,200 square feet to square off on an ever-shifting map updated every six months.
The ever-growing arcade has become a main attraction of CyberZone, with more than 65 new and classic games to thrill users of all ages, including top-of-the line Redemption games and 4-on-4 Halo. The recent addition of the CyberZone Fun Card lets guests swipe to continue playing and offers access to bonuses, discounts and more.
Nostalgia lives on in the Replay Zone, where retro, vintage and classic arcade games are available for play all day. If you grew up playing Pac-man, Joust, Galaga, Donkey Kong and pinball, this is the place for you.
One of CyberZone’s most unique attractions is its Esports lobby, where up to 18 guests can challenge each other in a custom-built, state of the art facility with large monitors, gamer-specific keyboards, personal headsets and comfortable seats. Users can download their own profiles and compete in local and international events. User passes for the Esports lobby are available in one-hour, three-hour and all-day packages.
Games are not limited to just the virtual at Cyber-Zone, either. Atomic RUSH pits players in a real-life video game where they need to tap colored panels in a certain sequence to rack up points. Play head-to-head against an opponent or on two teams of up to 4 people.
It’s fun for the whole family to enjoy at just $2 per person and with three different skill levels.