Sometimes, the best way to experience things is to get thrown in the deep end. Such was the case when I went to meet Timothy Cox, co-owner of URBAN GELBALL in Forest Glen.
by Victoria McGuin
When I walked in to URBAN GELBALL there were glass cabinets with gel blasters from the basic entry-level to a WW2 replica bazooka, and handling them, the weight difference increased the more advanced the blaster.
It must be said, I am not a video game/shooting kinda girl, but Timothy explained how this venue is actually good for teambuilding, strategic thinking and fitness. “I play with an army style weighted vest, it’s great for exercise,” Timothy said.
After the introductory safety talk, armed with protective headgear (you must wear Australian Standard Rated eyewear at the very least), and with one of my sons in tow, we were sent to separate ‘spawn’ areas. The buzzer sounded and we were in the maze made of plywood, set with corridors, an ‘office’, a galley and more. If you get hit, you return to your corner to respawn.
“Every corner has a strong and a weak spot,” Timothy explained. “This was designed by me and the other referees.” There is always at least one referee in the crow’s nest for safety reasons.
“One referee used to play e-sports, lots of competitive gaming; one is a serving reservist, and the other a retired veteran with multiple tours overseas. Together we designed a model course on the computer, which we walked through on the laptop.
“We designed it so that the further into the field you get, the harder it is, but the more rewards there are. We have had three layouts so far and change it every six-to-nine months.”
Once we were in the course, my heart was pounding and I found myself gripping my gel-blaster and ducking around corners, peering through windows and running and dodging in and out of the shadows – in short, I felt like I was in a computer game or in a spy thriller movie!
“This is a form of escapism,” said Timothy. “It’s like a video game, but without the glorified violence or hyper realism. It’s almost like a giant game of tag, and it’s a good alternative to sitting staring at the screen.
“The sessions are ten minutes games with breaks between each. It doesn’t feel like ten minutes though, it’s real time dilation as you’re hyper-sensitive, being in a close environment. Every part of you is focussed, and people come out exhausted!”
After a five-minute session playing ‘against’ my son (who was infinitely better than me), Tim suggested a ten-minute game, us against him. Suddenly we were being strategic, needing to cover each other’s backs against the stealthy ninja. It was a tense game, and I was hit at least six times by those small gel balls, which feel like an elastic band pinging your skin, but the adrenalin was high!
They run many different game modes, such as ‘recover the boxes’, ‘diffuse the bomb’, ‘VIP escort’, ‘defend and capture’ and ‘king of the hill’ (the person with the most time on the clock at the end, wins).
“We get quite a few first responders coming here,’ said Timothy, “it’s a great way to release stress. We also have families, people on the spectrum with their carers, a few veterans, and we are in talks about having wheelchair-bound sessions as 95% of the course is accessible.
Tim and his business partner, Rachel, think the venue has great all-round value, and they also run private sessions for birthday parties, buck’s parties, schools and sporting groups.
“This place is considered a sports facility, and honourable play is encouraged. It’s good for mental health, perfect for parents to join in with their kids and get them off computers, and you get fit by having fun!”
URBAN GELBALL is at 329 Mons Road, Forest Glen. Phone: 0412 333GEL. Website: urbangelball.com.au