Virtual vs. Reality

| Josh Rossmeisl | Team Articles
In today’s world, people tend to be more disconnected than ever. Pervasive technology is slowly replacing genuine human interaction, phones are becoming the lens through which we experience reality and “social” networks often distance us more than uniting us. Our mission is to provide an environment built on unique, “analog” experiences that create and elevate human connection and provide catharsis from digital exhaustion while simultaneously slowing time down to allow genuine connections to be made.
                                    A few years back, in another company me and the team ran, we just finished a million dollar renovation to convert an experimental project where we had built a luxury screening room/movie theater. This state of the art immersive cinema experience had the greatest technology money could buy. You would sit in the seats and watch the show and would be transformed into whatever was playing on the screen. Whether it was a great sporting event or a cult classic movie on the screens, groups would wander in and be amazed at the crystal-clear HD screen or the bone-crunching sound. They would sit down and watch for a minute and get up and walk out. Weekly football games on the screen were epic, yet the guys who walked in would walk right out and sit at the bar and watch on a screen a twentieth the size with no sound. We realized the room was doing the opposite of what guests came in to do which was to connect and be social. So we took a sledgehammer to the walls and made the space into an amazing retro arcade. We spent a half-million dollars to renovate the space and when it was done, it looked like we spent 2 million. It was beautiful. Stunning. Most impressively, it was alive.
Fast forward a month later and we hosted a party. We rarely needed an excuse to throw parties, but a special renovation called for a big one. Our goal was to invite our friends, family, and top corporate clients to show off what we did to our space and how it was completely transformed from an empty room to a lively gaming emporium geared towards adults. 300 RSVPs later, the party night was upon us and groups started showing up. A group of guys in their early 20’s came in and were introduced to us by a young bartender who invited her college friends to come to see the new space. After they received their drink tickets and play cards loaded with hundreds of points, they began to walk around the newly renovated area and marvel at the improved look and feel of the area of the venue that was transformed. They grabbed mugs of beers and shot a game of hoops and played each other in four-player air hockey. Then they walked over to a table we had set up in the corner with a giant Jenga set we brought out for the party. It was an afterthought that was meant to be an enhancement for our guests, but was mainly used for off-site events. The group's alpha proceeded to remove a brick from the stack signaling to his tribe that it was "game on". The group of four split into two groups and the friendly competition has begun.
About two and a half hours later, the group was still playing their game and we noticed a few things that transformed our mindset forever. They were on their third round of beers and had ordered food at this point. They were thoroughly engaged with one another throughout the game. 
                                    Groups stopped to watch them as the tension mounted between games and at least a dozen phones were out to capture the epic feats of balance. Every time the Jenga tower fell, without hesitation, the group would all pick up the pieces together and reflect on the win while instinctively rebuilding the tower together. Time seemed to melt away for this group who stayed hours and played this simple game together.
The Jenga set, which was the equivalent of six 2x4’s cut up and sanded down at the cost of $49.99 at Target, compared to the half-million dollars in the arcade technology flashing and beeping less than 12 feet from the Jenga table.
How does a game made of wood blocks become the center of attention and time melt in a time where the greatest technology exists on our planet? The arcade games are a hit and certainly are fun, but what we learned was the low tech, analog experience in today’s high tech world is the "unplug" people are looking for when they are immersed every minute, every day, all week in technology. The arcade games are an amazing way to kill time, but the low tech games allow human beings to become connected in a way the arcade games do not. It cultivates an environment where people collaborate, interact, emote, and become more human and less machine.   In a world where this environment has become more novel than norm, we need it now more than ever.
At AMP Up1, one of our goals is to change hospitality by creating meaningful connections through novel experiences that slow guests’ perception of time and enhance memories.   Stack 'em if ya got 'em.  It'll be "game on" very soon , the old-fashioned way. 

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