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Aaron Sloan, Engine Room VR — Interview Series



Aaron Sloan, Founder at Engine Room VR

To celebrate Golden Gloves VR's first anniversary on Meta Quest, we thought we'd check in with Engine Room VR founder Aaron Sloan to discuss the team's plans for the future, as well as any potential projects that could currently be under wraps.

Thanks for taking the time to speak with us, Aaron. Tell us a bit about your background as a boxing coach, referee, and judge. How did it all start for you?

Aaron: I started in martial arts and moved to amateur boxing at the age of 16. I competed for about five years. With no desire to compete as a pro, I turned my focus on my career, eventually completing nursing school and working as a cardiac nurse. In 2009, I opened a small boxing gym and started coaching in my free time outside of the hospital. In 2014, I moved the gym to a larger space, and by 2016, I was coaching full-time and have been doing that ever since. As part of my coaching career, I’ve been involved in the governance side of the sport of amateur boxing at the local, state, and national levels.

Let’s talk about your studio, Engine Room VR. How did that idea come to fruition, and what inspired you to pursue a stake in virtual reality?

Aaron: I have always always been interested in technology and virtual reality. I was waiting for the hardware to go wireless, and with the introduction of the Oculus Go and Quest 1, I decided to look into making a boxing game that could be used for esports.

At first, I approached some existing development companies with the plan of hiring one to create the game. The quotes I received in response were astronomical, so I decided to create my own game development company. I hired several recent graduates from Full Sail University’s program and moved them to Tulsa in the fall of 2021. I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished with a relatively small budget and a devoted team since that time.

You clearly have a lot of jobs to juggle! How do you find it, keeping on top of boxing and game development?

Aaron: It definitely keeps me busy, but I don’t mind working long hours. Engine Room VR, the development company behind the Golden Gloves VR game, is housed in a separate office inside our boxing facility, which makes it easier for me to work with both businesses throughout the day. One of our developers is even a regular in our boxing classes. Having amateur and professional boxers on site, along with a fully equipped boxing gym, makes it easier for the developers to accurately translate the real-world sport into virtual reality.

With Golden Gloves VR, my goal is essentially to recreate everything in virtual reality that we have achieved with the Engine Room Boxing Gym, our brick-and-mortar boxing facility in Tulsa. Currently, in our game, you can choose to participate in a single-player game experience or work out in our virtual gym with its real-world physics on all equipment. Soon you will be able to participate in PvP competitions, virtual classes, or one-on-one in-game training.

Golden Gloves VR Trailer with Updated Fight Scenes

Tell us a bit more about Golden Gloves VR. What is it, and what can newcomers expect to experience in the boxing-centric game?

Aaron: Golden Gloves VR is a single-player game with [a] gym, mini-games, and upcoming multiplayer capabilities. What sets us apart from other games are the physics in the equipment in the virtual gym and our partnerships with the sport’s national organizations. We’ve also made a great effort to ensure that our AI boxers behave in as realistic a manner as possible, using correct form and technique. We’ve tested the game at multiple boxing events, including the USA Boxing Olympic Trials, and the response has been very favorable.

Although we’ve tried to make the game as close to a real boxing experience as possible, it’s a great game for players of every skill and fitness level, including complete beginners. The in-game gym allows players to practice and develop their basic skills. The mini-games are an enjoyable way to perfect technique. The competition aspect of the game is progressive. As a player’s own skills improve, he or she faces increasingly difficult opponents.

And how did you find it, channeling your real-life experience as a boxing coach into a virtual reality space? Could you kindly take us through that process?

Aaron: I found it very gratifying to be able to combine two of my passions, boxing and tech. I knew I wanted to create a game to be used for official esports, but I also wanted to create a company that could develop other games in the future, as well. Without any practical experience in the industry, I decided to start by focusing on something in which I had expertise, which was boxing. By creating Golden Gloves VR, I was able to transfer all of my real-world experience in boxing, health, and fitness into a virtual space.

My existing relationships as a boxing coach and gym owner with both USA Boxing, the national governing body for amateur boxing, and Golden Gloves, one of the oldest and best-known names in amateur boxing, have enabled us to develop invaluable partnerships with the same organizations for our Golden Gloves VR game.

Are we right in thinking that you’re planning on bringing Golden Gloves VR to the eSports community? Tell us about that.

Aaron: That’s one of our main goals with this game, and we’ve already started the process. To test the concept, we recently hosted the first-ever USA Boxing–sanctioned combined real-world and virtual boxing tournament in our gym. We alternated traditional amateur boxing matches with in-person eboxing in two different rings at the gym. All of the matches were live-streamed on our YouTube channel, with commentary provided by a former professional boxer and a boxing journalist. The champion real-world athletes and the e-athletes received prize belts.

In the future, we will be hosting official tournaments online where players can gain ranking points to qualify to compete live for an e-USA Boxing and e-Golden Gloves national championship. The live events will take place at the existing USA Boxing and Golden Gloves national tournaments.

Of course, there are still so many gamers who’ve yet to experience VR. What advice would you give someone who’s looking to start out? Is Golden Gloves VR a game that anyone can jump in and play?

Aaron: No previous experience is required to enjoy Golden Gloves VR, whether you’re looking for fitness or competition. I encourage players to join our Discord community. I have always focused on building a community and family feel in our real-world gym, and I attribute a lot of our success to that. I have the same goal for our virtual community as well.

We have rapidly built a significant following on social media, and I try to respond to every message or comment personally so our players can give and receive feedback. I want to be available and have methods in place to use our game to teach and develop good boxing fundamentals and techniques. I also want our real-world competitive boxers to view this as another piece of equipment – just like a heavy bag or speed bag – to use as part of their training.

So, what's next for Engine Room VR, if you don’t mind me asking? Are we able to add any important dates to our calendars for the forthcoming year?

Aaron: We have some exciting things in the works, but unfortunately, none that we can announce now. I encourage everyone to follow us on Instagram, TikTok, and Facebook, and join our Discord channel, to keep up with the latest.

Thanks for your time, Aaron!

Aaron: Thank you!


If you're interested in staying up to date with Engine Room VR's latest projects, then be sure to check in with the team over on their official social handle here. Alternatively, you can check out their portfolio via the Engine Room VR site here.

Jord is acting Team Leader at If he isn't blabbering on in his daily listicles, then he's probably out writing fantasy novels or scraping Game Pass of all its slept on indies.