I worked up a sweat playing basketball in the metaverse — here's the next VR fitness craze

Gym Class VR
Gym Class VR (Image credit: Future)

 Swish! Jump like Jordan and dunk like Durant in the latest basketball VR game to hit the Meta Quest 2 platform: Gym Class VR. Don’t think for one second, however, that this game makes it easier for you to mimic the GOATs. One of the most challenging aspects of Gym Class VR — and the best features of the game — is that it mirrors the physics of a real basketball game.

In other words, the same effort and maneuvers you exert in the physical realm to sink that basketball into the net are the same actions you’ll have to employ in Gym Class VR. There’s no slacking here!

In a swanky downtown Manhattan lounge, the Gym Class VR team invited myself and fellow Laptop Mag contributor TJ Fink to demo the popular virtual reality basketball game, and man, we worked up one hell of a sweat! With a fun, competitive multiplayer element, real-world basketball mechanics, and challenging gameplay, it became clear to me why Gym Class VR is a breakout hit, accumulating over one million downloads and a 4.9-star rating among 17,000 reviews. 

Gym Class VR

TJ Fink demoing Gym Class VR (Image credit: Future)

While I recommend FitXR and Supernatural for anyone seeking VR workout apps to spice up their fitness routines, Gym Class VR is another fat burner that’s perfect for basketball enthusiasts who don’t mind breaking a sweat in the metaverse. 

Why is Gym Class VR such a great workout? 

As I hinted at the outset, shooting, grabbing, blocking, jumping and sprinting in Gym Class VR are based on real-world, physical movements. To paint you a picture of how this contrasts with less-realistic gameplay, let me describe what it’s like to play basketball in AltSpaceVR, Microsoft’s metaverse app. This platform features a basketball net in users’ virtual homes, but to sink a shot, you can simply chuck the ball in the general direction of the net and watch it fall in.

Gym Class VR

Gym Class VR (Image credit: IRL Studios Inc.)

Try to do that in Gym Class VR, however, and the ball won’t get remotely close to the rim — it will simply hit the pole and bounce off into the ether. As such, in Gym Class VR, you’ll need to exert the same launch power in the metaverse as you would in real life. Even the angles of your shots and the follow through of your wrists must be on point to earn the privilege of yelling, “Nothin’ but net!”

Naturally, with all of this in-game dribbling, shooting, squatting, passing, and more, you’re bound to find yourself working out — even if that isn’t your initial intention. According to the folks at Gym Class VR, users typically lose 300 calories per sampled session.

Gym Class VR modes 

The base Gym Class VR game is free, but keep in mind that you’ll be limited to multiplayer gameplay. You don’t need to spend a penny if you want to play against strangers all around the world in 1v1, 2v2 and 3v3 modes. 

Gym Class VR

Gym Class VR (Image credit: IRL Studios Inc.)

You can practice by yourself, however, in the training mode and tutorial sections, which allow you to engage in shootouts and passing drills with an AI bot. However, if you want to play against an AI rival in a 1v1 game, you’ll have to shell out $12.99 to upgrade the game to General Manager (GM) (opens in new tab) mode.

With GM mode, you’ll also earn the privilege of having your own customizable private court where you can shoot some hoops with your friends. The ability to create personalized full-body avatars is another perk you’ll get. You can tweak everything from your character’s jawline, chin and nose to lips, eyebrow shape and skin tone. With just the base game, your avatar is a faceless character and you can only change its shirt (you only have five options to choose from). 

To summarize, you can practice with the free base game, giving you access to Shootout, Passoff and Offense training modes, but if you want to put your skills to the test in an actual 1v1 game with an AI bot (with a personalized avatar to boot), you must upgrade to GM mode.

After just five minutes of playing Shootout Mode, a fast-paced training session that lets me practice my shooting skills with an AI bot, I was dripping in sweat. I could feel my core engaging as I reached for the balls stationed on my left before standing upright again to make my best shot. Of course, the muscles in my arms were being activated, too, as I scrambled to beat the AI and the clock.

Gym Class VR

Shootout mode in Gym Class VR (Image credit: Future)

If you really want a full body workout, throw yourself into an Instant Game, allowing Gym Class VR to match you with other users with similar skill sets for a good ol’ competitive game of b-ball. Depending on how large your space is, you can run around, swerve on rivals, and dribble your way to victory. If you don’t have a spacious play area, no worries; you can simply use the joystick to move around.

With the sudden bursts of running, jumping, shuffling, grabbing, passing and ball launching, I could feel my hamstrings, glutes, calves, core, triceps and forearms getting the workout of a lifetime.

Track your performance and progress 

Thanks to Gym Class VR’s performance analytics and in-game statistics, you can track your progress and skill development. For example, within the last 30 days, you can get a report on your winning streaks. You can also see the number of shots you’ve made, your shot attempts, game points, and more.

TJ Fink demoing Gym Class VR

TJ Fink demoing Gym Class VR (Image credit: Future)

My favorite part of the in-game statistics is the fact that there’s a bird’s-eye-view basketball court map that displays the areas where you’ve attempted to shoot the ball (and missed); these are represented as red dots. The green dots represent your successful shots. You can scroll through your game history to see this map for every game you’ve played.

With this map, you can narrow down your areas of weakness and strength. Using this to your advantage, you can sharpen your skills. It’s also worth noting that you can peruse through others’ profiles in the Gym Class VR community, so you can check up on and challenge yourself to outperform your rivals.

How Gym Class VR can improve 

The issue with multiplayer games that allow voice chat is that they attract foul-mouthed, uncouth, tactless players. I’ve tried to see if I could mute other players and/or make them disappear entirely, but I wasn’t able to find the option to do so. If there is a way, it’s not immediately obvious.

Gym Class VR

Gym Class VR (Image credit: Future)

I’d agree that many aspects of Gym Class VR mirror the real-life mechanics and locomotive actions of a basketball game in the physical realm, but dribbling could be a bit more realistic. As it stands now, using the Quest 2 controllers, you must grab the ball (requiring you to hold down the grip button) and let go. It would feel more true-to-life to just slap the ball onto the ground and allow gravity to work with my dribbling rhythm. As it turns out, after speaking with Gym Class VR co-founder Paul Katsen, more natural dribbling is in the works for the basketball simulator game. Woo-hoo!

Outlook 

If you, like me, get bored extremely quickly and find it difficult to stick to your fitness routine, consider Gym Class VR. In my opinion, the best workouts don’t feel like a workout — you’re just having fun and burning calories along the way.

If you’re a basketball fan, but don’t have enough friends to play a pickup game, Gym Class VR has your back, matching you with players all over the world for an engaging, immersive game of b-ball. If you prefer more of a solo experience, you can stick to the training mode, and once you’re ready to step your game up, consider upgrading to GM mode to tackle the AI bot for a sweaty, effortful 1v1 game.

Kimberly Gedeon, holding a Master's degree in International Journalism, launched her career as a journalist for MadameNoire's business beat in 2013. She loved translating stuffy stories about the economy, personal finance and investing into digestible, easy-to-understand, entertaining stories for young women of color. During her time on the business beat, she discovered her passion for tech as she dove into articles about tech entrepreneurship, the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) and the latest tablets. After eight years of freelancing, dabbling in a myriad of beats, she's finally found a home at Laptop Mag that accepts her as the crypto-addicted, virtual reality-loving, investing-focused, tech-fascinated nerd she is. Woot!