A FORMER soldier from Haydon Wick has swapped the army for something altogether more out of this world with the opening of new Swindon virtual reality gaming centre. 

Scott Francis, who grew up in Pinehurst, served in the army for six years before going travelling, where he discovered a VR centre in Vancouver. 

“I thought that something like that would be great in Swindon,” said the 31-year-old.

“They didn’t do it like I wanted to do it. They used a lot of specialist equipment where you sit in or on a vehicle and you’re fixed to one place. I wanted to take a different approach.

“But it wasn’t until the first lockdown that I decided to pull the trigger and it went from there.”

After months of hard work from Scott and the rest of his family to turn the 4 Hoopers Place location into a stylish centre for gaming, SAF VR opened last week. 

It offers four different themed booths for groups of up to four people to "escape reality for an hour and experience something completely new".

Each booth is fully accessible and has a wide range of top-of-the-range games tailor-made for the virtual reality experience. 

“One of the things I’ve found with VR is that people have a lot of anxiety about being watched, that’s why I wanted to have booths where everyone has their own space,” Scott explained. 

For Scott, the opening of SAF VR is delivering on a promise he made to his mother when he was younger.

He said: “I come from ‘Pinehurst, my family didn’t have a lot of money but I always used to say to me mum ‘one day you’ll see my name in lights.’

“She used to hate it because I’d write my name everywhere, she hated seeing it on the side of a petrol station, but she loves it now. 

SAF VR was certainly a family effort with Scott’s mum, dad and brother all pitching in, but he’s hoping that people will embrace it as a homegrown business. 

“I’m really excited to see how people react to it,” said Scott.

“I love Swindon, I was raised here and I’m hoping that the people of Swindon will enjoy something like this.”

Eager gamers or people intrigued by trying VR can book a booth for an hour at a time, and parties and groups can book the whole place for two hours. 

SAF VR is also running an exciting festive experience at Swindon’s Designer Outlet where people can sit in a simulator and fly through the night on Santa’s sleigh. 

The Old Town store is open now for bookings on www.saf-vr.co.uk and the Outlet Christmas experience is available until December 24.